Education, Jewish

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This entry is arranged according to the following outline. Bibliography at the end of a section is indicated by (†).

in the biblical period
The Nature of the Sources
Historical Survey
    the patriarchal period and the settlement
    the kingdom
    the babylonian exile and hellenistic times
The Goals And Orders of Instruction
    religious education
Educational Institutions
    intra-family relationship
    occupational training
    military training
    religious education
Specific Training
    the education of royalty
    diplomacy and government
    religious education
    scribal education
    education of priest and prophet
    education of women†
in the talmud
Character and Aims
Age Levels
The Educational Framework
    the family, the school, the teacher
Methods of Instruction†
in the middle ages
Babylonian, Pre-Geonic and Geonic Periods
The West Mediterranean Lands
Northern France and Germany
Eastern Europe and Asia
Community Responsibility†
jewish education – 16th–18th centuries
Europe – North and East
East Mediterranean and North African Lands†
the modern periodn, 1800–1939
Italy and Western Europe
Germany and Austria
Eastern Europe
The Balkans and the Lands of Islam
The Period between the Two World Wars†
jewish education in europe (war and postwar)
The War Years
The Period Since World War ii†
yiddish education
In Czarist Russia
The Ukraine and Belorussia
United States and Canada
Latin American Countries
jewish education in the united states of america
Early National Period
Emergence of Sunday Schools
Educational Currents in the Era of Heightened German-Jewish Immigration, 1840–1880
Educational Responses to Mass Migration from Eastern Europe, 1881–1910
Institutional Development, 1910–1945
Non-Formal Education
Institutions of Higher Learning, National Organizations New Initiatives
Jewish Education in a World Transformed, 1945–1975
Growth of Day Schools
Congregational Education in the 1960s and 1970s
New Settings of Jewish Education
Educational Trends at the Close of the 20th Century
Challenges at the Beginning of the 21st Century†
great britain
Early Period
The 19th Century
The 20th Century
Early Postwar Developments
Secondary and Higher Education
Hebrew Teaching
Subsequent Developments†
south africa†
north africa†

in the biblical period

The Nature of the Sources

The Bible is the primary source for an understanding of the process of education in ancient Israel. Since there is no biblical text that formulates a philosophy, methodology, or curriculum of education such information must be pieced together from occasional admonitions and narrative references and episodes supplemented by known facts about ancient Near Eastern institutions. Additional information is contained in the growing amount of ancient Hebrew epigrapha and relevant artifacts from archaeological digs.

Because of geographic proximity and cultural contact, extra-biblical Near Eastern material can be used to clarify the nature of biblical educational institutions. However, this material must be used judiciously, with an eye to the particular limitations of each society. For example, higher education or book learning in Mesopotamia and Egypt was formal and limited to the scribal class, which does not seem to have been the case in Israel. The difference was no doubt due to the simpler alphabetic system of writing used by the Hebrews.

Any description of education in the biblical period is necessarily incomplete and must ultimately rely on general impressions of what was applicable to most levels of society, as it is reflected in the Bible and later Jewish sources.

Historical Survey

The sources at hand do not allow for a precise, chronological description of the development of pedagogical institutions or methodology. Three major periods may be discerned, each displaying a distinctive political, social, and economic order in ancient Israel.

the patriarchal period and the settlement

During this crucial but sparsely documented period, the Israelites developed national-religious institutions that were to have a profound influence on them and on the world at large. For most of this period, they were seminomadic, residing in the great cultural centers of the ancient world, from Ur in Babylonia to the eastern Nile Delta in Egypt. Politically they were subject to greater and lesser powers in the Fertile Crescent.

The family or bet av was the basic socioeconomic unit tending to the communal needs of its members, including educating the young. In matters of war and external affairs the families acted concertedly with related groups to form the tribe and nation. There was little economic diversity. As the need arose, other clans that had specialized as scribes joined the confederation of shepherds and farmers (i Chron. 2:55).

The character of the Israelite nation was shaped during this period. Central to the religion of Israel were the promise to Abraham (Gen. 15), the exodus from Egypt (Ex. 7ff.), and the theophany at Sinai (Ex. 19–20). These historic moments welded the tribes into a nation related through blood and history. Guided by prophets and priests, they set upon the united goal of the conquest and settlement of the Land of Canaan. The revolutionary ideals of monotheism were later crystallized in the laws of the Torah and the historical narratives of the lives of the Patriarchs.

the kingdom

Through the genius of David, the Israelite tribal union was reshaped into a politically independent, centralized monarchy. Over the following 400 years, and in spite of the internal split into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah were able, at times, to control politically and influence their neighbors (David-Solomon, Ahab, Jeroboam ii, Uzziah, and Hezekiah). To serve the needs of this society, new institutions evolved. Tribal allegiances were subordinated to the new order. The country was redivided into administrative areas, not always along tribal lines (i Kings 4:7–20). A bureaucracy, patterned after local Canaanite models, came into existence, introducing new administrative forms (i Sam. 8:11–18).

The portable tabernacle and local shrines were overshadowed by the Jerusalem Temple, which was patronized by the king and officiated at by his appointees. The king's conquests and military establishment superseded the tribal holy wars. Professional soldiers and mercenaries now fought the battles of Israel (Song 3:8).

The centralized monarchy and subsequent urbanization directly affected all aspects of education. The need was felt for trained professionals and skilled artisans. Religious ideals of the covenant were transmitted to the people at the Temple and sanctuaries by a recognized priesthood. In reaction to the increased social injustice found in urban society, the classical prophets appeared in the eighth century to interpret the social implications of the election of Israel to the people.

the babylonian exile and hellenistic times

The Jewish people successfully overcame the trauma of the Babylonian Exile. The small province of Judah that was established subsequently was politically part of the Persian Empire and economically dependent upon the gifts of wealthier Jews in exile.

Ezra the Scribe and his colleagues were empowered to teach the Torah to the Jews (Ezra 7:25), and under his guidance the Torah became the accepted basis of individual and community life. Beginnings of a program of mass education (Deut. 31:12–13; ii Chron. 17:7–9) matured under Ezra into new institutions, intensifying the study of Torah and raising the quality of popular knowledge. Recognized instructors, called mevinim, were appointed to teach publicly. The Torah was read out and explained (Neh. 8:7–8). It was the beginning of the regular public lection of the Torah, later connected with the synagogal liturgy and ascribed anachronistically to Ezra (BK 82a). The internal tensions between stipulations of the Torah, on one hand, and between the Torah and the reality of the period on the other, led to a search for new meaning in the biblical text, thereby creating Midrash (Dan. 9:23–27; Neh. 8:13–15). In Hellenistic times there began to appear schools for public instruction (Eccles. 12:9; Ecclus. 39:1–3). Ben Sira, the late third century b.c.e. pedagogue, seems to have introduced tuition-free education (51:28–30). It was not uncommon for an informal study session to take place even at a student's house (Avot 1:4). Finally, toward the end of the second century b.c.e., *Simeon ben Shetah inaugurated the first known system of community-supported public education. A new intellectual model had emerged: the biblical hakham, or wise man, gave way to the rabbinic talmid hakham, or scholar.

The Goals and Orders of Instruction

The goals of education may be broadly summed up: (1) To transmit knowledge and skills from one generation to another or from one person to another; (2) To broaden the range of man's knowledge and skills; and (3) To concretize cultural values into the form of accepted group and individual behavior.

In each of the three main orders of study in ancient Israel – religious education, the learning of occupational skills, and military training – these goals were pursued to varying degrees. Each type of instruction had its own specific goals, methods of study, and pedagogic institutions.

Occupational and military training were subject to social and technological changes. For example, with the appearance of professional soldiers, military training for the average man became less important and at times nonexistent. On the other hand, religious education was conservative, retaining its goals and some of its methods well after the biblical period.

religious education

The goal of religious education was to produce "a kingdom of priests, a holy people" (Ex. 19:6). Wisdom literature stated the corollary, reshit hokhmah yirat adonai ("The essence of knowledge is fear of the Lord"; Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7).

The means of achieving this goal were twofold: first, the recognition of the divine will in the laws of the Covenant; and second, the study of Israel's history, which reflected God's concern for His chosen people. Learning God's law and Israel's history became the basic means of receiving a peculiarly Israelite religious education.

The law was regarded as the conditions of the berit, or covenant, between God and Israel (Ex. 24:7). Near Eastern vassal and parity treaties help to clarify many aspects of the berit as it is found in the Bible (see *Covenant). Since the covenant at Sinai was accepted by all those present when they said "We will do and obey" (Ex. 24:7), it followed that the whole nation would have to be taught the laws incumbent upon them. It is for this reason that Moses, Israel's first teacher, is repeatedly commanded to "Speak unto the Children of Israel saying …."

How were the laws to be taught? Some Near Eastern treaties contained a "document clause," i.e., a clause providing either for the public display of the treaty document or for its deposit in a temple, where it was read at regular intervals before the vassal king and citizens. Parallels are found in the Torah. The text of the covenant was read at the time of the agreement (Ex. 24:7) and an authentic copy was kept in the holy ark guarded by the priesthood (Deut. 31:9, 26). The covenant was to be reread publicly once every seven years during the Feast of Tabernacles (31:10–11); this was the earliest prescription for mass education in ancient Israel: "Gather the people – men, women, children and the strangers in your communities – that they may hear and so learn to revere the Lord your God and to observe faithfully every word of His Teaching. Their children, too, who have not had the experience, shall hear and learn to revere the Lord your God as long as they live in the land which you are about to cross the Jordan to occupy" (Deut. 31:12–13; ii Kings 23:1–3; Neh. 8:1–8; Sot. 7:8).

The second means of acquiring a religious education was through the study of Israelite history. The belief in a God acting in events, coupled with a high regard for oral tradition, made the telling of history a most effective pedagogical method. These collective memories took the literary forms of song and story that made up so large a part of biblical literature.

In the words of the psalmist:

Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
I will open my mouth with a parable;
I will utter riddles concerning days of old.
That which we have heard and known,
And our fathers have told us,
We will not hide from their children,
Telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done
(Ps. 78:1–4; cf. 44:2).

A periodic reading of a written covenant in addition to the recital of an oral tradition of sacred history were the distinctive features of the Hebrew religious education. If the laws specified man's duty, it was history that revealed God's concern. Together, they instilled in the Israelite a sense of identification with his God and people.

Educational Institutions

During the biblical period various social and religious institutions served to disseminate the ideals and the amassed knowledge of society. Some of these were relatively short-lived, already disappearing during the biblical period, e.g., the monarchy and prophecy. Others, like the Temple itself, lasted through the Second Temple period.

One institution, the *family, has remained a vital educational influence in Israel from biblical times to the present. The family educated the whole man, only delegating some of its responsibilities in periods of technical specialization. While it is true that in most societies the family plays the key role in the child's socialization, in Israel new emphases were developed.

intra-family relationship

The ancient Israelite family was characterized as having respect and awe for parents (Ex. 20:12; Lev. 19:3) and love and responsibility toward the children (Mal. 3:24). The parents were allowed almost complete control over the lives of their offspring, except where the Torah limited their authority, as in cases of dispensing capital punishment (Deut. 21:18–21) or in disallowing the birthright of the eldest son (21:15–17). Fatherly love, even for the disobedient child, is a favorite prophetic image (Jer. 31:20).

Disciplinary measures were an expression of concern for the child's well-being (Prov. 13:24; 22:15; 29:15) and were to help him control the inherent evil inclination (Gen. 8:21; Ps. 51:7). At the same time, the child's natural abilities were to be encouraged (Prov. 22:6).

An especially close relationship between mother and son seems to have existed in the polygamous family. This motif plays a major part in the patriarchal stories (Sarah and Isaac; Hagar and Ishmael; Rebekah and Jacob; Rachel and Joseph; Leah and Reuben). While sibling rivalry was a decisive factor in these and later narratives, fraternal concern is also not lacking (Reuben for Joseph; Judah and Joseph for Benjamin; Miriam, Aaron, and Moses; Eliab for David; Absalom for Tamar).

occupational training

It was a simple matter for the child to learn the rudiments of herding and farming by observing his elders and taking on these responsibilities at an early age (i Sam. 16:11). Girls learned the basic home trades necessary to make the family self-sufficient.

During the nomadic period some families may have specialized as merchants along the trade routes of the Fertile Crescent (cf. Gen. 37:25), while others were wandering smiths, as represented in a 19th-century b.c.e. picture from an Egyptian tomb. After they settled in Canaan, extended families and even whole villages were employed in a single trade (i Chron. 4:21–23).

Some families became artisans, eventually developing into professional societies. The terminology employed by these "guilds" was drawn from family life. The founder was called "father" and the members were "sons." The biblical term for these groups was, among others, the mishpahah, or "family" (i Chron. 4:21; cf. lehakah (lehaqah) and ḥevel).

This same system seems to have been common among Israel's neighbors: "Adah bore Jabal, he was the father of those who dwelt in tents and amidst herds. The name of his brother was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the lyre and the pipe. As for Zillah, she bore Tubal-Cain, who forged all implements of copper and iron" (Gen. 4:20–22). In Israel the noted craftsmen Bezalel son of Uri and Oholiab son of Ahisamach taught their skills to others (Ex. 35:30–34). Even the courageous Shiphrah and Puah may have become eponyms of "households" or professional midwives (Ex. 1:21).

military training

Before the establishment of the Davidic monarchy, the tribes were beset by continual local wars, necessitating general military training (Judg. 3:2).

The boys learned agility (ii Sam. 22:34, 37) and courage in face-to-face combat (ii Sam, 2:14ff.). They traveled with their warrior fathers and took active part in warfare (Judg. 8:20–21). They learned to handle the simple weaponry of the tribesman – sling, bow, sword, and spear.

The youth's training was probably supplemented by the telling of heroic exploits (Judg. 14–16; ii Sam. 21:15–22), including tactical blunders that were not to be repeated (Judg. 9:50–53; ii Sam. 11:20–21).

The tribes fought as units, each under its own banner (Num. 1:52). Some tribes seem to have developed their own military specialty. The tribe of Benjamin was noted for what seems to be the ambidextrous use of the sword (Judg. 3:15ff.) and the sling (Judg. 20:16), whereas the tribe of Judah was practiced in the bow (ii Sam. 1:18). The monarchy probably exploited these local talents in homogeneous units in the organization of the national army (i Chron. 27:1–22; ii Chron. 17:14–18). At that time, though, foreign mercenaries, professional Israelite soldiers, and sophisticated arms and defense systems were introduced, ultimately reducing the importance of the tribal warrior.

religious education

The Israelite home was consciously employed for the religious education of the young (Deut. 4:9; 6:7). The content of this education centered on the telling of family, tribal, and national history:

Remember the days of old,
Consider the years of ages past;
Ask your father, he will inform you,
Your elders, they will tell you (Deut. 32:7).

The many prophetic allusions to bygone generations assume a wide popular knowledge of Israel's early history.

Deuteronomy makes a particular point of ensuring that the child be instructed orally in the laws of Israel. The head of the household was put under obligation to teach his own children (Deut. 6:6–7). The naturally inquisitive boy might himself initiate such lessons (6:20–25). Copies of appropriate sections of the Torah were to be attached to the doorposts (6:9; 11:20) or (so literally the scriptural phrases were later interpreted) worn on the person (6:8; 11:18; cf. Prov. 1:9; 3:3; 6:21; 7:3).

An outstanding innovation of biblical pedagogy was the religious home ceremony, which became the primary means of conveying cultural values from one generation to another. The Passover home ritual is found at the very inception of Israel's national history (Ex. 12:21–27) and other home rituals were associated with other holidays of the Hebrew calendar (Deut. 16:10–12; i Sam. 20:5–6). The home as an educational institution would become the hallmark of the Jewish people.

Specific Training

the education of royalty

The young prince grew up in the harem where he was raised by his mother. She was his first teacher and continued to exert her influence on him after he reached his majority (i Kings 1–2; Prov. 31:1–9). In the event that her son became king, her influence was enhanced when she assumed the title and privileges of queen mother or gevirah.

As an infant the prince was placed in the hands of a wet nurse, who was responsible for his physical well-being (Ex. 2:7–10; ii Kings 11:2). After being weaned, the child was given over to a governess (ʾomenet) until he reached the age of five, approximately (ii Sam. 4:4). Childhood and youth were spent at court in the company of aristocratic contemporaries (ii Sam. 8:10; 13:3; ii Kings 14:14). Due to accident or intrigue, the eldest son did not always succeed his father. To prepare for this eventuality, all the young princes received the same education. Upon maturing, they assumed positions of political responsibility, either as advisors to their brother (i Kings 12:8) and/or as governors of key cities in the kingdom (ii Chron. 11:23).

Already in Davidic times, provision was made for the formal instruction of the king's sons (i Chron. 27:32). Ahab's 70 sons were educated by leading men of the northern capital of Samaria, no doubt with specialized training by professional tutors (ii Kings 10:1ff.). Neo-Babylonian administrative documents show that the exiled Judean king Jehoiachin had a Hebrew attendant, perhaps a tutor, for five of his sons (Pritchard, Texts, 308).

Some princes had personal tutors. Solomon benefited from the prophet Nathan's guidance (ii Sam. 12:25; i Kings 1); the young Joash was raised under the eye of his influential uncle (according to ii Chron. 22:11), Jehoiada, the high priest (ii Kings 11–12). Similarly, Isaiah took great interest in the young Hezekiah, over whom he was to wield a strong influence (Isa. 9:5–6; 11:1ff.).

The king himself also had influence over his son's upbringing. His own personality played a major part in their relationship. Some, like Saul, tended to harshness, while others, like David, were over-lenient. Both extremes led to family tragedies. In general, the king supervised the transfer of responsibilities to his sons (ii Kings 15:5; ii Chron. 21:2–3). On his deathbed, the king gathered his royal progeny to deliver his last testament, charging them in religious and diplomatic matters (i Kings 2:1–9; Isa. 38:1; cf. Gen. 48–49).

Drawing on the Former and Latter Prophets, it is possible to reconstruct broadly the curriculum of a prince's education. To fulfill his duties properly, he had to be trained in three main areas: physical and military training, diplomacy and government, and the national religion of Israel.

The first kings, Saul and David, were famous for their military prowess; some later kings rose to power through the army ranks (Omri, Jehu, and Pekah son of Remaliah). However, not only soldier-usurpers but also princes must have learned the art of warfare. Kings Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, and Josiah, to mention a few, took an active part in leading their soldiers. They trained with the bow (i Sam. 20:19–20, 35ff.; ii Sam. 22:35), could handle horse and chariot, and probably learned the fundamentals of military strategy (i Kings 20:13–14; ii Kings 3:6–8). Some were known for bravery and on more than one occasion a king died from battle wounds (i Kings 22:34–35; ii Chron. 35:23–24).

In contrast to ancient Near Eastern descriptions of contemporary royalty, the Bible is silent in regard to hunting expeditions. This pastime, which is mentioned in connection with the non-Israelite Nimrod and Esau, was usually a basic part of physical training.

diplomacy and government

Because of the ever-present foreign influences at court, the prince had a good measure of familiarity with the larger world. Through the many foreign wives, sons of vassals, and frequent diplomatic envoys (ii Kings 5:5ff.; 20:12ff.; Isa. 18), he learned of the customs of the gentiles and learned to appreciate their political strength in relation to that of his father. In the later monarchy the prince may have acquired some fluency in Aramaic, which was during the eighth century b.c.e. the lingua franca of the ancient Near East.

The prince had also to learn the workings of government. Upon reaching his majority, he went through a period of practical training, when he accepted responsibilities in the royal bureaucracy. Jotham, Uzziah's heir apparent, held the high position of ʿ al ha-bayit or "chamberlain" (ii Kings 15:5). A personal seal inscribed only with lytm was discovered in the excavations of ancient Ezion-Geber, and possibly belonged to the prince. The absence of his father's name reflects his high administrative position. That other princes held minor administrative positions is suggested by several ben ha-melekh ("son of the king") seals found in and around Palestine.

religious education

The king was patron and administrator of the Temple and national cult (ii Kings 12). Like all other kings of antiquity, he demonstrated his piety by lavish donations to the cult (i Kings 8:63).

On the other hand, the prophets demanded of the king allegiance to monotheism and the religious values of the Torah, expressed in acts of justice (Isa. 9:5–6) and humility (Deut. 17:14–20). It was by these criteria that the Israelite kings were judged by the authors of the books of Kings and Chronicles. These values were imparted to the princes by the court prophets and priests, not always successfully.

From the very inception of the monarchy in Israel, the king was conceived to be the highest judge in the land (i Sam. 8:5–6). Most of the famous cases mentioned in the Bible are ad hoc decisions demonstrating the king's legal sagacity in finding a just solution (ii Sam. 14:5–11; i Kings 3:16–28). In order to fulfill this primary function of kingship, the prince must have received a thorough education in common law and in the written law collections (ii Sam. 15:1–6; ii Kings 14:6).

Though there are no actual records, some kings may have promulgated laws of their own (cf. Micah 6:16). Jehoshaphat is said to have reorganized the judicial system, dividing it into local courts and a high court of appeal, and appointing supervisors for religious and royal interests (ii Chron. 19:5–11). Such familiarity with Hebrew law assumes that the princes had training in jurisprudence. Indeed, the Deuteronomic ideal entailed a literate king, well versed in the Torah (Deut. 17:18–19; cf. ii Kings 5:7; 19:14).

Not only in his judicial capacity, but in setting the tone of court life, the king patronized the literary arts. The more talented among Israelite royalty were accredited even with composition in the various genres. David's musical talent was still proverbial in the Kingdom of Israel two centuries after his death (Amos 6:5). His religio-national poems inspired later religious poets to see in him their own spiritual forebear (ii Sam. 1:17–27; 22; 23:1–7, and 74 of the 150 psalms).

Solomon was the proverbial wise man, mastering all forms of wisdom literature (i Kings 5:9–14). This literature was edited from time to time by the court savants (Prov. 25:1). Such was the case in the time of Hezekiah, who was also credited with poetic talents (Isa. 38:9–20).

The importance of alphabetic writing for the history of education must not be overlooked. It ushered in a break with the traditional scribal cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and second-millennium Canaan. To be literate was no longer the identifying and exclusive characteristic of a class of professional scribes and priests, versed in the abstruse cuneiform and hieroglyphic scripts.

scribal education

The etymology of the term sofer, "scribe," has not been conclusively determined. It may be derived from the Canaanite root spr, "to count," "to tell." The rabbis suggested a similar origin (Kid. 30a). Others derive the word from the Assyrian, šaparū, "to send," "to deliver a message." Whatever the origin, it seems clear that in the Bible a distinction should be made between a scribe, in the usual sense, and a Scribe who because of personal ability or family ties was appointed a minister or secretary of state. Both, however, received the same basic training.

As in the ancient Near East, the scribal class (or "guild") in Israel was originally organized along family lines. An early example is found in i Chronicles 2:55. Under the Davidic monarchy, the same principle of kinship is found in the position of "the king's scribe" (ii Sam. 8:17; i Chron. 18:16; i Kings 4:3; cf. Ezra 2:55 and Neh. 7:57). This was probably the case toward the end of the kingdom of Judah. The family of Shaphan dominated the bureaucracy and held the position of king's scribe from the time of Josiah until the Exile (ii Kings 22:3; Jer. 36:11, 12, 20, 21; 40:9).

Most professional scribes served the administrators of the central government, city councils, and Temple bureaucracy. These institutions set up their own schools which taught the specific scribal skills demanded.

Perhaps the youth of Judges 8:14 was a local scribe: "And he [Gideon] caught a young man of the men of Succoth, and inquired of him; and he wrote down for him the princes and elders of Succoth, seventy-seven men."


Scribal education everywhere was the conservative study of traditional methods and subjects. The Israelite scribe had the easy task of learning the 22-letter alphabet, whereas his Egyptian and Mesopotamian counterpart had to master at least one system of hundreds of signs.

The alphabet was invented and developed by the Canaanites during the second millennium b.c.e., probably in one of the major Phoenician cities. Indicative of the conservative nature of the scribal art is the fact that the form of the letters in the three main alphabetic branches (Phoenician, Hebrew, and Aramaic) did not differ radically during the period between 1200 and 600 b.c.e. While mastering the forms, the apprentice scribe learned their order. The standard order of the characters is found already in the 30-letter abecedaries of the scribal schools of Ugarit (15th century b.c.e.). Minus eight letters, the series reappears in biblical acrostics (Ps. 119, 145; Lam. 1–4) and is almost identical with the sequence of the modern Hebrew alphabet. Probably in the ninth century b.c.e. the form and order of the letters were exported to the Greek islands as well.

It seems that Isaiah refers to an elementary class learning the alphabet in one of his prophecies (28:9–13): he describes the "first grade" lesson for the day when the children learned the letters ẓadi (צ) and kof (ק). During the excavations at Lachish, a list of the first five letters was found incised on one of the steps of an Israelite building, perhaps the work of a child practicing his alphabet.

The second stage of a scribe's training was the copying of short texts that may have been learned by heart and practiced at home. The *Gezer Calendar (tenth century b.c.e.) is a possible example of such an assignment. It divides the year into eight agricultural seasons, noting the main characteristics of each. Gezer had been an important Canaanite city, and during the tenth century it housed a levite community serving the Jerusalem administration. Perhaps it was in cities like Gezer that the Canaanite scribal traditions were conveyed to the Israelites.

The young student next learned epistolary and other administrative formulae. After much practice, he could easily produce the names of the city elders (Judg. 8:14). During the monarchy there was a standard tax form, as found in the Samaria Ostraca (mid-ninth or according to others mid-eighth-century b.c.e.), and as more recently noted in the inscribed jar handles from Gibeon (late seventh century b.c.e.).

The local scribe had also to master the forms of deeds of sale (Jer. 32:10–14), marriage contracts (Tob. 7:13 (14) and Elephantine Papyri), bills of divorce (Deut. 24:1–3; Isa. 50:1; Jer. 3:8) as well as court pleas (ostracon from Meẓad Ḥashavyahu; Job 31:35). The latter, however, may have been part of the responsibilities of the shoṠer or "court secretary." This term is derived from the Akkadian šatāru ("to write") and related to the later Hebrew shetar ("a written document").

The king's scribes received a broader and more cosmopolitan education. They had to be competent in diplomacy and the exact sciences. Their knowledge of international diplomacy began with the study of Aramaic, the lingua franca of the period (ii Kings 18:26; Dan. 1:4).

Because of the involvement of all the Israelite kings, from Ahab to Zedekiah, in regional politics, it was necessary that the royal scribes know the workings of the Assyrian, Egyptian, Aramean, and Phoenician courts. Several kings even appeared in person before their Mesopotamian suzerains. International law and treaty formulae (ii Chron. 20:35–37) as well as far-reaching trade agreements (Ezek. 27) were the scribes' normal business.

Simple arithmetic was probably learned in all formal systems of education (Isa. 10:19). The Israelite court scribe, like his Egyptian and Mesopotamian counterparts, mastered the higher mathematics needed for solving problems of logistics and engineering (ii Kings 20:9–11; ii Chron. 26:15; 32:30). While astronomy is not specifically mentioned in Israelite sources, it was needed for the calendrical intercalations decreed by the central government (ii Chron. 30:2–4; Pes. 4:9; cf. Jub. 4:7; i En. 8:3). Cartography as well was a well-known ancient art (Josh. 18:9; Ezek. 4:1).

In addition to diplomacy and the exact sciences, the court bureaucracy developed what might be termed a "scribal ethic." Wisdom literature, more specifically the collections now found in the Book of Proverbs, served as a primary text for character education: they focused on the individual's rather than on the national interest.

Like the comparative Egyptian material, and the Book of *Ahikar (Aramaic), the Book of Proverbs was an outstanding example of court literature. The book was meant to serve in educating king and courtier (8:15–18) but especially the bureaucracy (22:29). The virtues stressed by these pedagogues were, among others, religious piety, proper family relations, honesty, industry, sagacity, responsibility, social virtues, and loyalty to the king.

Various literary methods were used as memory aids for the student. Key words (Prov. 25:4–5; 30:11–14) and common ideas (25:2–3, 5–6) tied together independent statements. Similarly alliteration (rash, rashaʿ, raʿ, 28:3–5) and repetition of the same or similar roots (25:18–20) served as learning devices. Other units might be formed as number series (30:15–33). Another mnemonic device was the alphabet acrostic (31:10–31).

Foreign material was freely borrowed: Proverbs 22:17–24:22 bears a great resemblance to the "Thirty Sayings of Amen-em-Opet," a famous Egyptian wisdom text (Pritchard, Texts, 421ff.).

The Book of Proverbs may be the closest thing to an actual school text from the biblical period. Its explicit pedagogic goal, as well as its employment of mnemonic devices, supports this contention. The centrality of secular, royal figures (Solomon, Hezekiah, King Lemuel of Massa, "The Wise") and its affinities to non-Israelite wisdom literature further argue for its role in the education of the officialdom.

education of priest and prophet

The nature of the priest's education can be determined through an inductive analysis of his manifold functions in biblical society.

Foremost were the cultic duties centered on the elaborate and complicated sacrificial rites. Later, the sacrifice was accompanied by music and song, performed by levitic families, versed in liturgical composition (i Chron. 25).

Giving rulings on questions of ritual law and ritual purity was intrinsic to the priest's responsibilities (Lev. 10:8–11; 12–15; Jer. 18:18; Haggai 2:11ff.; Mal. 1:4–8). The necessary knowledge for these decisions was no doubt acquired by training and study, including the study of the body and its diseases. Professional secular physicians are mentioned in ii Chronicles 16:12 (cf. Ecclus. 38:7; Pes. 4:9, a "book of medicines").

It was to the priests that Moses delivered the official copy of the Torah (Deut. 31:24–26; Jer. 2:8). They authenticated and supervised the writing of subsequent copies (Deut. 17:18–19; ii Kings 22:8) and became the authoritative teachers of the Torah (Deut. 31:10–13; ii Kings 17:28; ii Chron. 17:8–9; Ezra the Scribe was a priest).

The priesthood, though ultimately subject to the king administratively, supervised the Temple finances (ii Kings 12:8–17). (The Chronicler even has the priests assume trusted positions in the centralized government system of David and Solomon, i Chron. 26:30–32.) Their religious and secular functions demanded that they be literate. This is apparent also in the centrality of the written word in the cult (Ex. 34:27–28; Num. 5–23) and upon the sacred vestments (Ex. 28:21, 36).

Though there are no actual records, the clergy must have received formal training. As was the case elsewhere, schools probably were part of the Temple complex.

The clerical census counted priests only from the age of 30 (Num. 4:3) and levites from the age of 25 (8:24), when they began to assume their cultic functions. This relatively late age indicated a long period of apprenticeship necessitated by their complex duties.

Unlike the priesthood, there were no qualifications for joining the prophetic orders. Even women achieved renown as prophetesses (Miriam, Deborah, Huldah).

The prophets attracted a following known as bene hanevi'im, "sons (i.e., disciples) of the prophets." Some encouraged only a selected group of disciples (Isa. 8:18) or only a single protégé (Moses-Joshua; Elijah-Elisha; Jeremiah-Baruch). The disciple did not always succeed the master since true prophecy was not a skill to be learned but rather a result of divine election (ii Kings 2:9–10).

The disciple's education was acquired through his ministering to the needs of the prophet. This type of training resembled the rabbinic concept of shimmush, attendance upon a master (Avot 1:3). This, of course, is not to say that there was no formal or literary side to the novices' education. Several prophets may have been trained in the court schools (Isaiah and possibly Zephaniah); others had a priestly education (Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and possibly Malachi). Both schools provided a thorough knowledge of the national-religious literature and more.

The prophetic order no doubt preserved and studied the words and deeds of their illustrious predecessors (Elijah and Elisha cycles; cf. ii Kings 8:4; Jer. 26:17–18). The writings of the prophets show unmistakable signs of their acquaintance with the writings of their predecessors (Isaiah of Amos', Zephaniah of Isaiah's, Deutero-Isaiah with those of Isaiah, Zephaniah, and Jeremiah) as well as with the older psalms and other literature.

There must have been some training in prophetic oration, and musical accompaniment (ii Kings 3:15). An enlightening passage, reflecting prophetic training, in addition to the general popularity of the prophets' presentation, is found in Ezekiel 33:30–33: "…the children of thy people that talk of thee by the walls and in the doors of the houses and speak one to another … Come, i pray you and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord … and, lo, thou art unto them as a love song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument …."

the education of women

Women's education was conditioned by several cultural factors which limited and set the goals of their training. Before marriage, the woman was protected by her father or older brothers; afterward, by her husband who represented her interests in the community. Her dependent status is reflected in her being called by the name of her husband, be she ever so illustrious in her own right (Deborah, the wife of Lappidoth; Huldah, the wife of Shallum). Likewise her personal seal always refers her to some male: Elsegov, daughter of Elishama; Ne'ehevet, daughter of Remaliah; Abigail, wife of Asaiah; Aḥotmelekh, wife of Yesha; Menaḥemet, wife of Gadmelekh.

Her protected status was based on a religious and moral outlook, sharply contrasting local Canaanite custom, as well as on economic and social interests that predated the Settlement. These generally limited her activity to that of the home and kindred occupations and provided the goals and limitations of her education, contingent upon her father's position in society.

The mother was naturally the girl's primary teacher and model (cf. Ezekiel's epigram "Like mother like daughter," 16:44). Besides her religious obligations, the young girl learned the domestic chores and special skills of her mother through observation and imitation in the informal atmosphere of the home. She performed other tasks dictated by the family's work – attending the flocks (Gen. 29:6) or helping at harvest time (Song 1:6; Ruth 2:8). She played in the streets and markets (Zech. 8:5). Recently discovered artifacts have demonstrated that she also possessed an assortment of games and dolls.

The upper-class maiden was raised by her nurse, who sometimes accompanied her to her husband's house (Gen. 35:8). If orphaned at an early age, she was raised by a close relative (Esth. 2:7). If there were no brothers, she could inherit her father's property, though in order to protect tribal interests she would have to marry paternal relatives (Num. 27:1–11).

She was brought up on the virtues of sexual innocence and chastity. Violation of her body demanded retaliation by her menfolk (Gen. 34:25ff.; Judg. 21:22) and was considered a great personal and family tragedy (ii Sam. 13:11ff.).

Woman was created to be a helpmate to her husband (Gen. 2:18). A good wife was regarded as a gift of God and worth great riches (Prov. 31:10). Her subordinate social and economic status did not diminish the affection in which she was held. A mother's guidance was highly regarded by sons and daughters, influencing them long after they had matured.

She was taught to be industrious and to take an active interest in the economics of her home. The paean to a good wife (Prov. 31:10–31) is an extraordinary celebration of woman's industry. Other virtues lauded are foresight, thrift, good judgment, devotion to her husband's interests, and, above all, piety. It has been suggested that this passage served as a guide to a formal course of study in home economics for upper-class girls.

If a woman had a profession or skill, it was passed on to her daughters. The usual skills were midwifery (Ex. 1:21), weaving and cooking (i Sam. 8:13), and professional mourning (Jer. 9:19). In the pre-Israelite period a musical profession, associated with the pagan cult, was regarded as a proper alternative to marriage. In a letter to a Canaanite nobleman living in 15th century b.c.e., Taanach, a friend, advises "As for your daughter … let me know concerning her welfare; and if she grows up you shall give her to become a singer or to a husband" (Pritchard, Texts, 490).

While Israelite women did not participate in the Temple choirs at Jerusalem, they did sing at the royal court (ii Sam. 19:36; Eccles. 2:8). Others were known for gifts of prophecy and poetic expression (Ex. 15:20–21; Judg. 5). There were wise women able to compose fables; still others practiced the black arts and magic (i Sam. 28:7). Such skills indicate a formal training, learned from experts.

Women raised at court later assumed positions of importance. Political marriages were not infrequent in Israel; such women must therefore have received some formal education befitting their future positions. Since some women had personal property (ii Kings 4:8ff.) and seals of their own (see above), they may have known writing and calculation.


GENERAL: F.H. Swift, Education in Ancient Israel from Earliest Times to 70 AD (1919); L. Duerr, Das Erziehungswesen im Alten Testament und im antiken Orient (1932); B. Dinur, in: EM, 3 (1958), 114–21; S. Greenberg, in: L. Finkelstein (ed.), The Jews, 2 (1960), 1254ff.; S. Talmon and M. Weinfeld, in: Enziklopedyah Hinnukhit, 4 (1964), 144–68; J. Kaster, in: Interpreters' Dictionary of the Bible, 2 (1962), s.v.Education, O.T.on goals and orders of instruction: D.J. Mc-Carthy, Treaty and Covenant (1963). on educational institutions: I. Mendelsohn, in: BASOR, 80 (1940), 17–21; A. Demsky, in: IEJ, 16 (1966), 211–5. on specific training: W.F. Albright, in: BA, 5 (1942), 49–55; idem, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968), 179–80; M.B. Crook, in: JNES, 13 (1954), 137–40; J. Katzenstein, in: IEJ, 10 (1960), 149–54; B. Uffenheimer, in: Oz le-David BenGurion (1964), 291ff.; U. Simon, in: Biblica, 48 (1967), 207–42; A.F. Rainey, in: E M, 5 (1968), 1010–17; S. Ahituv, ibid., 554–66; J. Liver, Perakim be-Toledot ha-Kehunnah ve-ha-Leviyyah (1968).

[Aaron Demsky]

in the talmud


While the sages regarded education as a central instrument in the preservation of Judaism, talmudic sources, characteristically, nowhere deal with the subject systematically in a comprehensive halakhic exposition. Instead, statements on education are scattered throughout talmudic literature, not as normative halakhot, but rather as incidental philosophical or psychological ideas, which in the main express the educational aspirations of spiritual leaders during about 600 years (c. 100 b.c.e.–500 c.e.). It is possible to derive a good idea, however, of the actual state of education at that time, which, when compared with the ideal, presents a unique cultural phenomenon – the approximation of pedagogical achievement to the ideal, not only in the attainments of exceptional individuals but also in the numbers of outstanding contemporary personalities. Here would seem to lie one answer to the riddle of the continued existence of Judaism despite the catastrophe which overwhelmed it in the first century c.e. History has revealed the profundity of *Joḥanan b. Zakkai's insight in his plea to the Roman ruler at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple: "Give me Jabneh and its sages" (Git. 56b). It was the study of the Torah which filled the breach left by the loss of the Temple service and which instilled new vigor into the nation.

Character and Aims

The basis of education is, according to talmudic sources, the study of the Torah, an all-embracing concept which includes means and ends alike. Two basic educational principles followed from the sages' regarding Torah as the very substance of their lives: (1) Education is not to be treated as distinct from the inner content of life but as one with it; (2) accordingly, Torah study is not to be limited to a certain age but to continue throughout one's life under the guidance of a teacher. The prompting of Rabban *Gamaliel, "Provide yourself a teacher" (Avot 1:16; cf. also 1:6), was intended for everyone, without regard to age or social standing. The unique character of Jewish education finds expression in the phrase "Torah for its own sake," a concept which sets before the student of Torah two goals: the disinterested fulfillment of the commandment itself – as it is written (Josh. 1:8): "Thou shalt meditate therein day and night" (Maim., Yad, Talmud Torah 1:8) – and the orientation of his studies to observance of the mitzvot. Torah study was actually regarded as greater than observance in that the first, aside from its intrinsic worth, led to the second by its very nature (Kid. 40b). The sages, in what was apparently designed to serve as a model for educators in all generations, defined the ideal man as one who studies the Bible and the Mishnah, attends upon scholars, is honest in business, and speaks gently to people (Yoma 86a).

Even as the supreme goal of study was Torah for its own sake, so was the general aim of education, "Let all your actions be for the sake of Heaven" (Avot 2:12), an epitomization which brings all actions, even those seemingly removed from Torah and mitzvot, into the sphere of man's central purpose – the service of God. To the end that a man support himself by his own labors and not become a burden on society, the sages declared: "All study of the Torah that is unaccompanied by work is ultimately futile" (ibid. 2:2). Accordingly, the permission granted parents to make arrangements on the Sabbath for the education of their children was extended to include arrangements "for teaching him a trade," both activities being regarded as "the affairs of Heaven," i.e., religious duties (Shab. 150a). One sage even declared that whoever fails to teach his son a trade, encourages him to become a brigand (Kid. 29a). A child was also to be taught swimming, undoubtedly for the preservation of life. As for other subjects, astronomy and geometry were regarded as aids to the study of the Torah, philosophy ("the wisdom of the Greeks") was not approved, and foreign languages, though discouraged for fear of contaminating cultural influences, were apparently, in view of the number of non-Hebrew words that found their way into talmudic literature, not entirely prohibited (see *Greek and Latin Languages, Rabbinical Knowledge of). Moreover, *Abbahu allowed girls to be taught Greek as "a social accomplishment" (TJ, Pe'ah 1:1, 15c), while Rabban Gamaliel established a school in which 500 pupils were taught philosophy so that they might be able to maintain contacts with the ruling authorities.

Age Levels

A child's education commences when he begins to speak, whereupon the duty devolves upon the father to teach him to repeat selected biblical verses, such as "Moses commanded us a law, an inheritance of the congregation of Jacob" (Deut. 33:4). This reveals the sages' appreciation of the cultivation of a child's imitative, mechanical faculties even before the attainment of understanding. They were aware of the value of inculcating in young children the habit of observing the mitzvot: "A minor who knows how to shake a lulav is obliged to observe the laws of the lulav; a minor who knows how to wrap himself in the tallit is obliged to observe the law of the zizit" (Tosef. Hag. 1:2). The pedagogical rule in *Judah b. Tema's statement: "At five years the age is reached for studying the Bible, at ten for studying the Mishnah, at thirteen for fulfilling the mitzvot, at fifteen for studying the Talmud" (Avot 5:21) was not always rigidly adhered to. At variance with it is *Rav's statement to *Samuel b. Shilat, a schoolteacher: "Do not accept a pupil under the age of six; but accept one from the age of six and stuff him [with knowledge] like an ox" (Ket. 50a). At Usha it was laid down that up to the age of 12 gentle means were to be used to induce a child to study (ibid., loc. cit.). A girl and a boy on reaching the age of 12 and 13 respectively were regarded as "adults," whereupon the father was no longer obliged to teach them Torah and the observance of mitzvot, the obligation now devolving upon the "new adults." The studies of adolescents did not thus represent a unique pedagogical stage. The obligation to study Torah under their teachers for the rest of their lives applied to them as it did to all other adults. Having learned Bible and Mishnah, they attended lectures on the Mishnah together with the young scholars and were present at the talmudic discussion centering around the mishnayot. In this "yeshivah" no distinction was made on grounds of age or status. Even those engaged primarily in earning a livelihood took part in the studies during the month of *kallah, the special lecture series given by the academy head during the months of Adar and Elul when the studies of the intervening periods were summarized.

The Educational Framework

the family, the school, the teacher

In biblical times, as mentioned, the family, particularly the father, was the source of education. After that time, however, the growing demands of life and the expanding boundaries of Torah study made an institutional framework necessary. At an early stage it was apparently the custom to assemble children in the synagogue, where they were taught reading from the biblical scrolls. The first regulation that children be sent to school was introduced by Simeon b. Shetah, the brother-in-law of King Alexander Yannai (c. 100 b.c.e.). The Talmud provides a more explicit statement on the establishment of schools at the end of the Second Temple period (the beginning of the common era) in which are noted the various stages in the development of institutional education: "Rav Judah said in the name of Rav: 'Truly the name of that man is to be blessed, namely, *Joshua b. Gamla, since but for him the Torah would have been forgotten in Israel. At first, if a child had a father, his father taught him; if he had no father, he did not learn at all… They then introduced an ordinance that teachers of children be appointed in Jerusalem … Even so, if a child had a father, the father would take him up to Jerusalem and have him taught there; but if he had no father, he would not go up there to learn. They therefore ordained that teachers be appointed in each district and that boys enter school at the age of 16 or 17. But because a boy who was punished by his teacher would rebel and leave school, Joshua b. Gamla at length introduced a regulation that teachers of young children be appointed in each district and town, and that children begin their schooling at the age of six or seven'" (BB 21a). The basis of organized schooling for all ages was laid by Joshua b. Gamla's regulation. Most of these schools were in synagogues and were under the supervision of beadles (see Shab. 1:3). "There were 480 synagogues in Jerusalem, each of which had a Bible school (bet sefer) for the study of the Bible and a Talmud school (bet talmud) for the study of the Mishnah" (TJ, Meg. 3:1, 73d). At a later period, the patriarch, as the chief spiritual leader, was concerned with education and with the quality of teachers. *Judah iii (third century c.e.) sent emissaries throughout Erez Israel to ascertain whether each town had teachers of the Bible and of the Mishnah (TJ, Hag. 1:7, 76c). *Rava, a leading amora of the fourth century c.e., introduced, on the basis of Joshua b. Gamla's regulation, several important educational ordinances: (1) No child was to be sent daily from one town to a school in another, but could be sent from one synagogue to another in the same town. (2) The number of pupils to be assigned to a teacher was 25. If there were 40, an assistant was to be appointed. Whether one teacher could be replaced by a better one was the subject of a difference of opinion between Rava and *Dimi of Nehardea, who also differed on which teacher was to be preferred, one who taught a great deal but inaccurately, or one who taught less but without mistakes. Dimi's view, favoring the more careful teacher, was adopted (BB 21a).

All these institutions – the bet sefer for the study of the Bible, the bet talmud for the study of the Mishnah, and the yeshivah – had as their purpose not only the imparting of knowledge but also education for a life of Torah. This aim was achieved thanks to the personal example set by the teachers, who were held in awe by their students, as witness the statement of *Joḥanan b. Nappaḥa and *Simeon b. Lakish (prominent Ereẓ Israel amoraim of the third century c.e.): "We succeeded in the Torah only because we were privileged to see *Judah ha-Nasi's finger projecting from his sleeve" (TJ, Beẓah 5:2, 63a).

Methods of Instruction

Instruction was two-pronged in intent – improvement of the memory by accurate transmission and frequent repetition of material, and, at a later stage, the development of creative thought. Pupils learned to transmit statements in the same phraseology used by their teachers ("one is obliged to use the language of one's teacher"). Since the Oral Law, which could not be committed to writing, was continually expanding, accuracy in learning it was attainable only through endless repetition; hence the dictum, "He who has repeated his chapter a hundred times is not to be compared to him who has repeated it a hundred and one times" (Ḥag. 9b). The pupils thus acquired proficiency in recitation and a knowledge of the language of Scripture and the basic equipment required for participation in the creative study of the Talmud, essentially an incisive analysis of the mishnayot and the beraitot. The sages were strikingly modern in their practice of the pedagogic art. When *Tarfon's pupils said to him: "Tell us, teacher, by what virtue did Judah merit the kingdom? he answered, 'You tell'" (Mekh., Be-Shallah 5). On one occasion *Akiva deliberately stated a halakhah incorrectly "to sharpen the wits of his pupils" (Nid. 45a). Every possible mnemonic device was employed – notarikon, association of ideas, and many others. Only in this way could the vast body of talmudic thought have been transmitted intact from generation to generation until the end of the fifth century c.e., when it was finally redacted.

Discipline played a vital role in this system (see Shab. 13a, and Rashi, ad loc., rabban aleihem). Although corporal punishment was inflicted when deemed necessary, the sages sought to curtail it as much as possible and warned against injuring a child. Rav's directives to Samuel b. Shilat the school teacher included the following: "When you punish a pupil, hit him only with a shoe latchet. The attentive student will learn of himself; the inattentive one should be placed next to one who is diligent" (BB 21a). This counsel applied to younger students; with those who were older the teacher might introduce the lesson with a humorous remark to create an atmosphere congenial to learning. But the teacher's most valuable asset was the example he set for his students. Well aware of this, the sages sought to impress upon teachers the need for circumspection in speech and deed. Thus *Ze'eira, a leading amora of the end of the third century, stated: "One should not promise something to a child and then fail to give it to him, for he thereby teaches him to lie" (Suk. 46b). Though the sages were remarkable pedagogues, the greater part of their achievement doubtless resulted from the atmosphere generated by their personalities, an atmosphere of unbounded love for the Torah and of supreme self-discipline in the observance of mitzvot.


Enẓiklopedyah Hinnukhit, 4 (1964), 144–68, includes bibliography; J. Ster, Die talmudische Paedogogik (1915); H. Gollancz, Pedagogics of the Talmud and that of Modern Times (1924); N. Morris, Toledot ha-Hinnukh shel Am Yisrael, 1 (1960); M. Eliav and P.A. Kleinberger, Mekorot le-Toledot ha-Ḥinnukh be-Yisrael u-va-Ammim (1960), 48–70; A. Berman, Toledot ha-Hinnukh be-Yisrael u-va-Ammim (19682), 25–35.

[Yehuda Moriel]

in the middle ages

Babylonian, Pre-Geonic, and Geonic Periods

By the end of the fifth century, the time of the completion of the Babylonian Talmud, the Jewish community in Babylonia had become the leading Diaspora Jewry, a position it was destined to maintain for another five hundred years. This leadership expressed itself also in its educational system and in its high level of scholarship. Many synagogues had both a bet sefer for elementary study, and a bet talmud for advanced study. At the peak of this network of educational institutions were the two major academies of *Sura and *Pumbedita that contributed so richly to Jewish scholarship and, through the interpretation of the halakhah, set the pattern for Jewish religious life and the place of study in it. The heads of these academies – known at first as rashei ha-yeshivot, and later as geonim – were accepted as the authorities on religious law not only in Babylonia but also in the other lands of the dispersion. In the seventh century, Babylonia's influence was enhanced by the Arab conquests of many Mediterranean countries, extending as far as Spain, which united them with Babylonia in the bonds of a common language, Arabic. This last factor facilitated personal contact and communication between the Jewries of the geonic period and helped establish and solidify a more or less uniform style of Jewish life.

One of the chief components of this style of life was the upbringing of children. Their education was started at home where at a very early age they noted numerous observances, learned some of the benedictions and simple prayers and began participating, on their level, in many traditional practices, especially on Sabbaths and holidays, where they became acquainted with the synagogue rituals and celebrations. The home and the synagogue were effective educational agencies from the child's very infancy.

While some children were instructed by their fathers, starting school at age six was the more common practice. The school was usually in the synagogue or in a building near it, and the pupils were accordingly referred to as "synagogue children" (tinokot shel bet keneset). It was a community institution. However some affluent parents preferred private schools for their sons.

The elementary school's chief aim was to prepare the boy for participation in the synagogue service. The ability to read was therefore the first objective. Books being rare and expensive, children learned the alphabet by copying its letters on parchment, or paper or slate. In the early stages of learning, the teachers often outlined block letters which the children filled out, and sometimes colored. On the more advanced level, scrolls or sheets with biblical texts were available, or Torah scrolls that were unfit (pesulim) for synagogue use. Prayers and sections from the Pentateuch came next on the program, often starting with Leviticus. The Torah was studied assiduously in an attempt to cover the sidra ("portion of the week"). Afterward the pupils delved into the books of the Prophets and Hagiographa, but a later tendency was to neglect these works in favor of Talmud. In some schools the native language and arithmetic were also taught. *Hai ben Sherira (10/11th century), the last gaon of Pumbedita, permitted teaching these secular subjects, recognizing the need for them in daily life. However, their inclusion in the school's curriculum probably preceded Hai's dictum.

Widespread and effective elementary education continued in Babylonia's Jewry for a thousand years or so. Surely *Pethahiah of Regensburg exaggerated when he recorded in his travel diary (of 1180) that "there is no one so ignorant in the whole of Babylonia, Assyria, Media, and Persia, that he does not know the twenty-four books [of the Hebrew Bible] with their punctuation and grammar. …" This statement, however, reinforces information from other sources indicating that basic instruction was the lot of nearly all boys during the centuries of the gaonate.

The elementary teachers at this period were known as melammedei tinokot, or simply melammedim. Their economic position was relatively low, as was also apparently their social status. Hai Gaon, who, in his didactic poem Musar Haskel ("Wise Instruction"), urged the people not to be miserly in educational matters and engage good teachers for their children, also advocated generosity in the matter of teachers' remuneration. Teachers enjoyed extra presents on special occasions and on gift-giving holidays, particularly from parents pleased with their children's achievements.

The elementary schools were also preparatory institutions for more advanced studies. There were two levels of such study that may be characterized in the modern terms of secondary and higher learning but this division did not reflect so much the age of the students as the level of studies. In the intermediate stage, those engaged in Midrash Mishnah (study of the Mishnah) or Midrash Talmud (study of the Talmud) still needed the assistance of a rav – a teacher. On the upper level students proceeded with their learning independently. The subject was almost exclusively Talmud. The stress on Talmud brought about a nearly complete elimination of Bible and Mishnah from schools beyond the elementary. *Natronai b. Hilai Gaon (nineth century) expressed the opinion that adults, being pressed for time because of the need to earn their living, should concentrate on the study of the Talmud, since the Talmud contains much of the other two works. This same logic was later expressed by Rabbenu Jacob b. Meir *Tam in France.

The Babylonian academies served substantial numbers of students, some of them from distant lands: Egypt, Tunisia, Italy, Spain. During the pre-holiday months of Adar and Elul, the kallah assemblies in the academies attracted many students. In Babylonia there thus developed a system of talmudic learning also for the broader circles of the Jewish population, something on the order of peoples' universities or, to use still another modern term, extension courses.

This entire educational enterprise, however, was restricted to the male population. Girls did of course learn a great deal at home and were taught those observances that applied to their function as housekeepers. They knew the benedictions and prayers related to these activities. Some of them also learned to read and attended synagogue services. There are references to an organized girls' class, to a girl that attended school together with her brother, and even to some women teachers. But these were exceptions. By and large the Jewish women of that period were untutored and either completely or partially illiterate.

The West Mediterranean Lands

In the West Mediterranean countries of Spain, southern France, and Italy, one finds in the eighth and ninth centuries the same basic educational pattern that prevailed in Babylonia. But in the course of time a substantial network of elementary schools and important academies for advanced study were established in Spain, which inherited Babylonia's place as the Diaspora's leading Jewry, and the dependence on Babylonian scholarship lessened considerably. The elementary Judaic program remained much the same as in earlier centuries in Babylon. On the more advanced levels, however, many new books were introduced, most of them by Spanish authors, but including the commentaries of northern France's *Rashi. There was also a tendency to engage less in pilpul (the casuistry of excessive arguing pro and con on all halakhic matters, which was supposed also to sharpen one's mind) and concentrate instead on works of such codifiers as Isaac *Alfasi and, later, *Maimonides.

Another innovation was the introduction into the curriculum of Hebrew language and grammar, a more serious study of the Prophets and Hagiographa, and of contemporary Hebrew poetry. Judah *Al-Ḥarizi (c. 1200, Spain) speaks of the "inspiration that descended upon the Jews of Spain … in the year 4700 (940 c.e.) to train their manifold tongues in the style of poems," which was very poor at first but improved in the course of a century until "they learned to construct a stanza in meter and proper form." In Spain also the curriculum expanded, especially in the upper classes, to include general, secular instruction. The language of the country, Arabic, was studied in order to improve one's professional or business opportunities. Judah ibn *Tibbon (1120–1190, Spain and France), in his "testament" to his son, stated that "as you know, the great men of our people did not achieve their high position except through their knowledge of Arabic." Some students found it feasible to combine the study of Bible and of Arabic, and Ibn Tibbon advised his son to review the weekly sidra every Sabbath both in the original and in Arabic translation, "as this would be of benefit to you [in understanding] the vocabulary of Arabic books." Good writing, too, was taught: fine penmanship to the young, proper language and good style to the more advanced.

The progression in the Judaic program of studies was, as elsewhere, reading the Pentateuch, then Mishnah and Talmud. Obviously, not everyone continued through all these stages of learning. *Baḥya ibn Paquda, in a classification of educational accomplishments, describes the person on the lowest level of achievement as able to read a biblical verse without understanding its content, without even knowing the meaning of the words, as "comparable to an ass carrying books." There were then some, perhaps many, who remained ignorant. Others advanced to substantial levels of knowledge.

During this period there appeared for the first time in Jewish literature treatises on education, mostly chapters in various books, testaments, or commentaries, some of which are quite informative about the educational practices of the time. A school curriculum was fully outlined by Joseph ibn *Aknin who lived mostly in North African lands, but whose opinions represent typical Spanish views. Besides Torah, Mishnah, and Talmud, he advocated the study of grammar, poetry and continuation to logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music, physical science, and metaphysics. Ibn Aknin also expressed definite opinions about teacher qualifications and prerequisites for the good student. The teacher must be well versed in the subject he instructs; must practice what he teaches or preaches; should be patient with students and consider their learning abilities; should stress ethical behavior, etc. The good student is to acquire habits of cleanliness and good manners; should not be too bashful to ask questions; should pay attention and subject himself to his teacher's discipline; must never be idle; should study for the sake of knowledge and not in order to acquire wealth or for any other ulterior purpose. The mature student should seek out communities that have good schools and try to learn from qualified teachers rather than exclusively from books. Other writers give programs of study similar to Ibn Aknin's or to parts of it, suggesting that in all likelihood some such programs were actually followed in many communities. An even more detailed and ambitious outline by Judah ibn *Abbas (13th century, Spain) offers curriculum guidance for virtually a lifetime. At the age of three or three and a half the child learns the alphabet, reading, and proper vocalization. He is then taught the weekly portions of the Torah, with stress on correct reading and cantillations; the translation of the Torah into Aramaic, which will prepare him for the language of the Talmud; the Former Prophets, with emphasis on accurate meaning, syntax and writing, to be followed by the Latter Prophets and the Hagiographa. This program should be covered by about the age of 13. The boy will then study grammar and language. Only after such well-grounded preparation does one begin studying the Talmud with commentaries. The halakhah requires separate attention, and is taken up next, culminating in Maimonides' Mishneh Torah. When the young man reaches the age of 18 or so, he studies medicine, mathematics, astronomy, logic, and natural sciences. Specific works are named in textbooks for the various subjects. Ibn Abbas warns that at all times the scholar must observe the commandments, and the more he delves into the various subjects (hokhmot), the more must he strengthen his fear of the Lord and the observance of the mitzvot. This program may have been followed by a few of high intellectual abilities who could afford to devote themselves entirely to study. But the unexceptional too, especially among the wealthy, followed a rich curriculum of both the sacred and profane subjects. Even music and sports were learned in affluent families, though most likely not in the schools, but privately. King Affonso of Portugal is reported to have asked some Jewish scholars why they taught their sons music and fencing when they are obligated to weep over the destruction of the Temple and they do not go into battle.

Such Spanish curricula, with extension into languages and secular studies, were not universal. There were always those who concentrated almost exclusively first on the Pentateuch (Ḥumash), then on Talmud, to the neglect even of Hebrew and of the post-Pentateuch Bible books. A compromise view was that "extraneous" subjects were permissible for God-fearing and observant adults who had already become thoroughly versed in Jewish lore. Jacob *Anatoli (1200–1250, Marseilles) expressed the opinion that those who prohibited the study of "Greek wisdom" on the basis of the talmudic injunction not to teach "your sons" higgayon (meaning "Greek wisdom") erred in interpretation, and the word "sons" should be understood to mean young boys who were not ready to assimilate it.

This issue of advanced "extraneous" studies stirred Jewish communities repeatedly in both Spain and southern France and led to serious controversies. In Montpellier (southern France) it resulted in a violent split between the proponents and opponents of philosophy and in mutual excommunication by and of the two groups. Solomon b. Abraham *Adret, rabbi of Barcelona and prominent leader of Spanish Jewry, wrote a decision which prohibited "extraneous" teachings to those below the age of 25, on threat of excommunication. However, he permitted the teaching of medicine which was needed to heal the sick.

The fear of the effects of broad general education was not without foundation in reality. Spanish Jewry of the 12th and 13th centuries experienced a weakening of the faith in some of its best-educated circles. M. *Guedemann states that Jews of Spain became in large measure "Arabized," or, through Arabic learning of Greek philosophy, Hellenized (Guedemann's term in German is "graecisiert"). This resulted in a counter-tendency on the part of many leaders troubled by the phenomenon. They gained strength by the arrival from Germany in 1305 of *Asher b. Jehiel who became rabbi in Toledo. R. Asher never studied "Greek wisdom" and rather gloried in that fact. His opposition to this area of scholarship was resolute and effective. Talmudic study gained greatly due to his efforts and influence, and as a result Jewish education in Spain took a turn away from the trend of the two or three previous centuries, and by and large restricted itself to Torah and Talmud. In certain groups, particularly those in the higher economic and social strata, the practice of engaging in secular studies persisted.

The Jewish settlements in Provence, southern France, resembled those of Spain in their educational and cultural development. Here too, learning had developed to a high level. *Benjamin of Tudela, who traveled in the area in 1165, listed a string of towns that had important academies and scholars. Lunel is mentioned as a city with "about three hundred" Jews, where the "holy community of Israel" is engaged in studying Torah day and night and "people that come there from afar to study are maintained by the community as long as they stay in the house of study." Posquières, with only "about 40 Jews," has "a great yeshivah." Marseilles, with "about 300 Jews," is "a city of geonim and sages." Narbonne and Arles were centers of Jewish medical learning in the 13th century. Some Jewish schools in the French cities must have been substantial institutions, as reflected in documents of the sale of Jewish properties that accrued to the royal treasury after the expulsion of the Jews in 1306. While ordinary houses were sold for 5–20 livres and big houses for somewhat higher prices, Jewish school structures realized 350 livres for the building of the Midrash Katan and 620 livres for the Midrash Gadol, both in Narbonne, and similarly for buildings in other cities. In Toulouse there was a street named Rue des Ecoles Juives, suggesting more than one school. These houses were sold for 700 livres.

The educational picture in Italy resembled that in Spain and southern France. A cultural spurt in Italy during the eighth century contributed to a parallel development in the Jewish community. Apparently there were at that time well-established Jewish communities and schools in the south of Italy. Abraham *Ibn Ezra, who visited Italy in mid-12th century, expressed little respect for Italian Jewish scholarship. Hebrew, however, was in use, at least in certain circles. Solomon b. Abraham *Parhon (12th century, Spain and Italy) observed that Italian Jews spoke Hebrew better than those of Spain. His explanation was that since all the "lands of Ishmael" used one language (Arabic), the Jews understood each other without resort to Hebrew, but it was a necessity in the Christian lands that used diverse languages, and Jewish travelers from these lands used Hebrew among themselves. From the 13th century on, Italian Jews were active in the study of Hebrew poetry, Bible, and Talmud, but in all of these pursuits Italian Jewry more or less followed the paths paved in Spain and in southern France.

Northern France and Germany

The educational aims of the Jews in northern France and in Germany during the first half of the previous millennium differed from those in Spain and Provence. Knowledge of Torah, strict observance of the commandments, and complete devotion to God and to Israel, even to the point of readiness to be martyred, were the exclusive objectives in the rearing and teaching of the young generation. Philosophy did not hold any lure for them and they delved into the study of the Scripture and Talmud without the need to reconcile them with Greek philosophy. The teacher's task was thus to teach and not to speculate; the scholar's task to elucidate and explicate the law where it was obscure and difficult, as did Rashi (Troyes, France), the explicator par excellence whose commentaries helped the young boy and fascinated the adult. With such an attitude deeply implanted in the Jewish communities, Judaic knowledge was quite widespread. Guedemann states his conviction that the study of the Bible in the original was so widespread in 11th-century France, that there was hardly a Jew there who did not know Hebrew and learned Jews spoke Hebrew out of preference.

The Franco-German educational literature of this period, both fragments found in various works as well as several documents dealing primarily with learning, provides a fairly complete picture of education in the Jewish communities. The home, the rearing institution of early childhood, was saturated with a motivating atmosphere and with practices that would later lead to effective Jewish learning. Some of these were performed long before the child could appreciate their meaning. Thus, the Mahzor *Vitry, a compilation of Jewish laws, prayers, and customs for the cycle of the year, written by Simhah of Vitry (d. about 1105), tells of a custom that "some short time after circumcision, ten men would be gathered [in the home of the infant], a Humash (Pentateuch) placed over the infant" in his cradle and the wish would be expressed "may this [boy] observe what is written in this [book]." As he was growing up the boy heard prayers and benedictions on many occasions at home, and was taught to repeat many of them. He soon began to carry his father's prayer book to the synagogue and sat there during services on low benches provided for children. On Fridays after the Minhah service he would run home to notify his mother of the arrival of the Sabbath and of candle-lighting time. On Passover eve children were given nuts or chestnuts to play with, and wine glasses to arouse interest in their role at the seder ceremony. Similarly there were various practices in which children participated on other holidays: noisemakers on Purim, bows and arrows on Lag ba-Omer, etc.

The start of formal schooling was a special event. The boy was sent to a "heder" (the word meaning room), a term which came into use in the 13th century, suggesting that certain rooms in the synagogue were designated especially for study. According to the Maḥzor Vitry, "when a person introduces his son to the study of Torah, the letters are written for him on a slate. The boy is washed and neatly dressed. Three cakes (ḥallot) made of fine flour and honey are kneaded for him by a virgin and he is given three boiled eggs, apples, and other fruits. A scholarly and honorable man is invited to take him to school … The boy is given some of the cake and eggs and fruit, and the letters of the alphabet are read to him. Then the letters [on the slate] are covered with honey and he is told to lick it up … And in teaching him, the child is at first coaxed and finally a strap is used on his back. He begins his study with the Priestly Code and is trained to move his body back and forth as he studies." This description is followed by an explanation of the rationale of each of these details. R. Eleazar b. Judah of Worms lists some of the same details in his version of school enrollment, as does also an anonymous document, Sefer Asufot, written probably around the year 1300. This initiation into school was usually made when the boy was five years old, in some cases earlier, at the time of the festival of Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah. Another source gives the month of Nisan as a suitable time weatherwise, "neither cold nor hot," for such a start.

The curriculum of the elementary school was the traditional one consisting, as R. Eleazar of Worms summarized it, of first learning the letters, then combining them into words, then biblical verses, to be followed by Mishnah and Talmud. But there was no need for pedagogues to outline this curriculum, since most Jews knew it quite well. The document Hukkeiha-Torah ("Rules of the Study of Torah") instructs the father to bring his child to a teacher at the age of five and tell the teacher what he expects of him: "… you are to teach my son knowledge of the letters during the first month, vocalization in the second, combination into words in the third and afterwards this 'pure' child will take up the 'purities' of the book of Leviticus. …" Later, the boy is to learn the weekly sidra, first in Hebrew and then in the vernacular and the Targum (the Aramaic translation of the Pentateuch) and its translation into the vernacular. At the age of ten the boy starts Mishnah and certain tractates of the Gemara. By 13 he has completed his course in the Midrash Katan and then continues in the Midrash Gadol (terms probably taken from the French petite école and grande école.)

These Ḥukkei ha-Torah, written in 1309, are unique in that they constitute a complete set of regulations dealing with community responsibility, school administration and supervision, course of studies, and other administrative and instructional elements. According to these regulations, teachers should not instruct more than ten children in any one group. The pupils should be trained to discuss their lessons with each other, and thus sharpen their minds and increase their knowledge. "On Fridays teachers should review with their students what they had studied during the preceding week, at the end of the month what they studied during the past month, in the month of Tishri what they had studied during the summer, and in the month of Nisan what they had studied during the winter." A supervisor is to be appointed to observe the pupils' diligence or indolence. Should the supervisor note a slow-learning, dull child, he should bring him to his father and say: "May God bless your son, and may he be brought up to perform good deeds, because it is difficult to bring him up for study, lest on account of him brighter students be retarded." Seven more years of talmudic study were to follow the elementary and intermediate schooling. This did not apply to the masses (hamon). However, the numerous references in the literature to yeshivot suggest that there were many bright boys who did continue with such an advanced program.

*Judah b. Samuel he-Hasid of Regensburg in his Sefer Hasidim advocated continuation of studies until the students no longer need their teacher and "are already teaching others." He, too, felt that talmudic studies were not for everyone: "if you see that [the boy] can study Bible but not Talmud, do not pressure him to study Talmud." For Talmud was practically the exclusive subject in the yeshivot, and talmudic erudition was the highest educational objective. The starting of a new tractate of the Talmud was an occasion for a minor celebration and a feast in which community leaders often participated. Hours of study were long, even for the young children, but especially for the talmudic scholars. When the young boys (bahurim) arrived at an independent age, some of those who sought further knowledge wandered off to towns that had renowned yeshivot. This practice seems to have become fairly widespread in the 14th and 15th centuries during the decline of the Jewish communities in Germany that followed the severe persecutions associated with the *Black Death. Many schools closed their doors and young men in search of Torah wandered about the land. Occasional yeshivot arranged accommodations for these nomadic scholars and communities helped provide for their maintenance.

Here, as elsewhere, the educational program was aimed at the male population only. Women were not taught Torah, although a few of them managed to learn some of it. Sefer *Hasidim states that girls should be taught to pray, and also those commandments that fall within their realm of activities, "for if she does not know the regulations of the Sabbath, how will she observe the Sabbath?" The education of girls was thus quite limited in France and Germany as elsewhere.

Eastern Europe and Asia

The Jews from Byzantium who settled in southern Russia and the Crimea around the turn of the millennium at first had no rabbinic authorities of their own and maintained a correspondence with scholars in Germany in matters religious. They also sent there some of their young men who desired a talmudic education. There is thus a suggestion that some elementary schooling, or elementary instruction, was available at home. Hebrew was not unknown in the region. One Crimean Jew, Khoza Kokos, an influential agent of Ivan iii Vasilievich, grand duke of Muscovy, used to write reports to the duke in Hebrew, causing the latter some difficulties in finding an interpreter for them. In Poland and Lithuania Jewish communities were formed in the 12th and 14th centuries, mainly by refugees from German persecution. Among these were some rabbis, teachers, and cantors. The new communities continued for some time importing these functionaries from Germany, so that the Jewish educational efforts in these lands were shaped in the German-Jewish style of the period. The advanced scholarship of East European Jewry did not begin to flourish until later times.

In the Asiatic lands the Jewish communities could not, because of poverty and the extremely primitive conditions of life in their physical and social environment, develop the type of educational institutions that evolved in Western Europe. However, elementary instruction was imparted among the Jews in *Yemen and occasionally scholarly talmudists were found among them. In Iran, during the geonic period, elementary study of the Torah seems still to have been popular. In the ninth century a deviationist tendency appeared in the work of *Ḥiwi al-Balkhi, who apparently wrote an abbreviated version of the Pentateuch, omitting portions that he considered unsuitable for children, and criticizing many biblical passages and teachings. His book and opinions gained popularity also in *Afghanistan, his land of birth, and in other countries, so that *Saadiah b. Joseph Gaon found it necessary to attack it severely. Jewish learning in Persia was already then on the decline, but the Jews, some of whom were active in Persian cultural life, retained their Hebrew alphabet for the Persian language in whatever writing they had to resort to. A number of Persian language manuscripts of the 12th to the 16th centuries authored by Jews, including poetry and fiction, were written in Hebrew characters. Most of this literature was not Jewish in content, but at least one major poet *Shahin wrote on Jewish themes and authored a poetical version of the Pentateuch. There were Jewish communities also in other Asiatic lands or cities that preserved their Jewish identity, but their education was mostly quite rudimentary.

Community Responsibility

With the demand for education so widespread in the Jewish population and with the heavy burden borne by parents for the schooling of their sons, it was only natural that the organized community too undertook certain responsibilities in the educational field. As far back as the geonic period teachers used to be appointed by the communities, paid by them, and considered community functionaries. Later, community support of education was best organized in Spain. Various responsa that deal with this problem refer to community taxes and to the handling of bequests for education. Meir ha-Levi *Abulafia (13th century, Spain) ruled that "communities must engage teachers for young children; and in smaller villages … it is the duty of the entire community, and not only of the children's parents, to pay [the teachers]." A revealing document on the subject is the set of ordinances of the Valladolid synod, convened by Abraham *Benveniste in 1432. Part i of these ordinances dealt with education, including its financing. It imposed taxes on meat and wine, and imposts on circumcisions, weddings, and funerals, for education expenditures. These taxes were not to be used for any other purpose than education or "support of students who received maintenance from the aforementioned talmud torah contributions." Each community of 15 householders was obligated to maintain a qualified elementary teacher who had to be paid according to the number of his dependents. Where the tuition fees from the pupils' parents were insufficient for his needs, the community had to supplement his income. The community also exercised a measure of supervision as seen from rulings about school practices, such as a limit on the number of children to be taught by one teacher (25), and other such administrative regulations.

Essentially the same type of responsibility obtained also in North European countries. Rabbenu Tam (12th century, Troyes, France) in his ordinances referred to communities paying or supporting teachers' salaries as established practice, and ruled that in cases of shortage of educational funds, moneys designated for other purposes might be diverted to meet educational needs. These ordinances were accepted by the Rhenish communities in the year 1220. Even very small Jewish communities in many German towns managed to maintain schools, or at least a teacher. Reference is also made to such practices and to support of advanced students in Ḥukkei ha-Torah. Guedemann, who first published this document, expressed the opinion that while there can be no certainty that it represents the exact reality of its period, he was inclined to believe that it did reflect prevailing practices. Nor was financial support the only responsibility undertaken by the community. Mention was made above of regulations dealing with size of classes, supervision, reviews of material covered, and similar practices. Large schools were even required to have non-teaching supervisors, akin to the modern principals, who were to manage the business aspects of the school as well as assure proper instruction by the teachers (Ḥukkei ha-Torah). These may have been concomitants of financial support, since in education, as in other endeavors, subvention is often linked with at least some regulation and supervision. In any case, Jewish communities of the Middle Ages, even in extremely difficult times and circumstances, undertook a substantial measure of responsibility for the education of their young.


Assaf, Mekorot (1925–47); Baron, Community, 2 (1942), 169–207; S.M. Blumenfield, Masters of Troyes; a study of Rashi the Educator (1946); W.J. Fischel, in: L. Finkelstein (ed.), The Jews, 2 (19603), 1149–90; Graetz, Hist, 3 (1949); 4 (1949), passim; Guedemann, Gesch Erz (3 vols. 19663), index; N. Morris, Toledot ha-Hinnukh shel Am Yisrael, 2 (1964); Weiss, Dor, 4–5 (19247).

[Elijah Bortniker]

jewish education – 16th–18th centuries


Jewish education during the 16th–18th centuries continued as a virtually universal practice. It was greatly facilitated by the then recently developed process of printing which made reasonably priced books readily available. There was, of course, one negative factor that interfered with Jewish life and hence also Jewish learning. The constant prejudice and persecution, the repeated expulsions, the frequent minor and occasional major pogroms, reduced the numerical strength of the world Jewish community which reached its lowest ebb in the 17th century. However education seemed to persist in high priority in the Jewish family and in the Jewish community of the period.

Europe – North and East

Elementary Jewish schooling in the German lands and in Poland, Lithuania, and Russia was given either in the private ḥeder or in the community talmud torah. The former was in many places a rather shabby institution. Moses Moravchik, in a pamphlet entitled Keiẓad Seder Mishnah ("How to Organize Learning"), published in Lublin in 1635, listed among the causes for the poor state of the heder the tendency of many parents to change teachers each half-year term, low instruction fees and difficulties in collecting them, the melammed's inclination to promote pupils for fear of losing them, the difficulties of proper instruction in the melammed's home, and improper program and methods of instruction. The talmud torah s, maintained primarily for the poor, were often better organized, because they were supervised by the community, usually by a Talmud Torah Society (Ḥevrah Talmud Torah). At periods and in places of community strength the talmud torah s too benefited. In the 16th and early 17th centuries, many Jewish communities in Eastern Europe enjoyed considerable autonomy and authority in their internal affairs, and they regulated both talmud torah s and private hadarim. The Cracow community ordinances (1594) are typical of those in many communities. They imposed penalties on parents who failed to pay the teacher in prescribed time and prohibited teachers to accept children for whom tuition fee was owed to another teacher. A "truant officer" was to see that boys were not out in the streets or market place during their school hours. Supervision of the schools was likewise quite common. It was the duty of talmud torah officials to visit the schools, to ensure adherence to the program of studies, to test the pupils at specified times, and to select those pupils who merited awards.

The age of school entrance was usually five, but many three- and four-year-olds were sent to the melammed, even if merely to sit in his ḥeder and thus absorb some fragments of knowledge or get into the habit of accepting learning. They were referred to as "sitting children." School attendance was obligatory in most communities to age 13, in 16th-century Moravia "even for boys who did not do well in their studies." In Metz (1690) education was compulsory to age 14, and the community announced that it "will pay out of its tuition fee fund for all the children whose parents request it … without inquiring into the applicants' economic position." Those aged 14–18 who did not continue attendance in a yeshivah were required to study at least one hour daily. Amsterdam regulations (1738) obligated the community to provide orphans with the best teachers, to keep them in school until they were 13, and good students to age 15. A 1750 revision changed these ages to 14 and 17. The Sephardi community of the same city placed even greater stress on equal quality of instruction for the rich and for the poor. Similar specific concern for the poor and the orphans is found in many towns across Europe, from Amsterdam to Belaya Tserkov in the Kiev region of Russia (1764). Some regulations fixed the number of students per class: up to 40 pupils, with two boys as assistants (behelfers), in Cracow; or 25 in Dubno. However, Talmud classes in Dubno were limited to 15; in Fuerth to 10; in Mikulov to 14. In Mogilev-Podolski a limit of 15 was set on Talmud groups, but of only ten for those studying Talmud with Rashi's commentary and tosafot.

Education of girls remained very limited during this period as in previous centuries. A few of them received some instruction in reading the prayers and no doubt some girls, not tutored formally, managed on their own to acquire reading skills at home, where book learning was highly regarded and assiduously practiced. From the 17th century on, after the publication in 1620 of *ẓe'enah u-Re'enah by Jacob Ashkenazi of Janow, the Yiddish work which became immensely popular among women, many girls learned biblical and later stories, aggadic and midrashic homilies, comments on Jewish life, customs and morals, as told by a remarkable raconteur. Private instruction was given to girls in some affluent families, which in the German and Western lands in the late 17th and in the 18th century often included French and German as well as music and dancing.

The elementary curriculum consisted, as in previous generations and periods, of reading, prayers, and Ḥumash. A new development was the widespread use of Yiddish as the language into which Ḥumash lessons were translated, in most cases word by word. Textbooks appeared of such translations, or of commentaries, some of which were based mostly on the popular commentaries of Rashi, like the Be'er Moshe of Moses ha-Levi (Prague, 1605) that became very popular, and other similar works. The weekly portion constituted the week's Ḥumash curriculum, but it was seldom completed. The stress on talmudic learning was so great that it was started at age seven or eight, the Prophets, the Hagiographa, and Mishnah being completely omitted. R. Joseph Yuspa *Hahn (d. 1637) of Frankfurt wrote that "in our generation there are rabbis who never studied the Bible." Even less interest, or rather no interest whatever, was evinced in any area of study that was not directly related to the Jewish religious lore. Secular subjects were completely excluded from the curriculum.

In the yeshivot of Central and Eastern Europe the aim was to produce scholars with a thorough knowledge of the Talmud and its commentaries, the tosafot, and the major halakhic codes. The talmudic pilpul method, a thorough dialectical examination of all possible arguments pro and con, was further elaborated in this period and transformed, mainly under the influence of Rabbi Jacob b. Joseph *Pollak of Prague, Cracow, and Lublin, into the "ḥilluk," extra-keen hairsplitting sophistry and ability to come forward with innovations (hiddushim) used in disputations and learned discourses, a sort of impressively complicated mental gymnastics, no matter how odd or absurd, which led to neglect of genuine search for understanding and even to distortion of original meanings. Although time consuming and apparently lacking in any practical purpose, it became very popular and highly valued in itself, to the neglect of more worthwhile scholarly pursuits.

Both the elementary and yeshivah programs and methods of study were severely criticized by R. *Judah Loew b. Bezalel of Prague and a number of his disciples. He advocated a graded program in accord with the child's readiness and in response to actual needs, greater stress on the commandments and practices taught in the Pentateuch rather than on Rashi's commentaries which were in his opinion a waste of time, and a further study of Hebrew, Bible, and Mishnah. He also sought the introduction into the school of certain secular subjects, particularly natural science. In the Talmud, according to him, children need not engage in study of tractates that are meaningless to them, and the overly refined pilpulistic method should be avoided at any stage since "it distorts one's intelligence." A number of prominent rabbis and scholars followed Loew's ideas and an elementary teacher, Moses Moravchik of Moravia (quoted above), wrote a pedagogic pamphlet based on them. But except for a few followers in several localities, these progressive ideas did not gain popularity.

The 17th century saw a decline of Jewish schools and of Jewish learning. In Germany the cities suffered decimation of population and impoverishment due to the Thirty Years War (1618–48). In Poland many Jewish communities were completely destroyed or reduced in the pogroms (1648–49) perpetrated by the *Chmielnicki rebellion, and the Jewish community organizations that flourished there broke down. After a slow and gradual recovery another development, mainly in the German lands, was the rise among the Jews of a substantial body of wealthy financiers, merchants, and *Court Jews, who lost interest in the traditional scholarship and observance. Their business required the use of local European languages, and "culture" decreed knowledge of French and Latin. Jewish learning was reduced in these circles to mechanical reading of ideas, and fragments of the Pentateuch. These attitudes and practices spread slowly into wider groups. Jonathan *Eybeschuetz (1690–1764), who served as rabbi in Metz, Hamburg-Altona, and Prague, and everywhere had many students and disciples, nevertheless complained about this decline in traditional learning and, in the lessened community, lack of support for it at a time when there seemed to be sufficient means for many other purposes, "some of them quite useless."

The second half of the 18th century brought about further changes in Jewish education in Germany and in the Austrian empire, which included, besides Austria proper, also Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, Galicia, and parts of the Slavic Balkans. Emancipation of the Jews in these and other North and West European countries and the removal of many disabilities that afflicted them for centuries encouraged the spread of Moses *Mendelssohn's "Enlightenment" and of the educational views of Naphtali Herz *Wessely. Himself well educated both in traditional Jewish and general lore, Wessely advocated modernization of the Jewish school, through improved educational methods in the Jewish traditional subjects, which are God's law, and the introduction of secular subjects like the country's language, arithmetic, geography, history, and good manners, which are man's lore, into the Jewish school. Many prominent rabbis bitterly fought Wessely's proposals. But the desire for liberation from the old ghetto atmosphere and the slogans of enlightenment appealed to many in Germany and in parts of Austria. The governments too helped strengthen these tendencies.

In Germany, a high official, Christian Wilhelm von *Dohm, a friend of Mendelssohn, proposed reforms for the "civic improvement of the Jews" through modernized education. The very next year (1782) Emperor Joseph ii of Austria issued a Toleration Edict that lifted some of the restrictions on Jewish occupations and mobility, but also demanded "reform" of some of their practices including educational ones. The frank statements or implications that Jews needed "improvement" in order to merit improved civil status did not seem to offend and were in fact accepted by many of the Jewish seekers of emancipation and enlightenment. New schools were established by them in German and Austrian cities, where things soon took a very different turn from what Mendelssohn and Wessely intended, and Jewish studies in them suffered a serious decline. However, the Jews of Galicia, whose background and sentiments resembled more those of their fellow Jews in Poland and Russia to the east of them, remained refractory to the educational modernization efforts and only a few sent their children to the many schools opened for them, on government instruction, by the Jewish educator Naphtali Herz *Homberg.

Throughout this period, education of the youth in the Jewries of Poland, Lithuania, and Russia was most nearly completely traditional. During the period of the kahal's ("community") greatest autonomy, traditional learning flourished. German cities exploited the scholarship of Polish and Lithuanian communities by employing rabbis and teachers who came West upon invitation or on their own. These East European Jews were influenced much less than their Western coreligionists by their environment, perhaps because this environment was much more primitive. Neither political emancipation nor cultural enlightenment and modern educational ideas had yet had a serious impact on the Jewries of the Russian lands at the end of the 18th century.


After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal, Italian Jewry became the major Jewish community of the Mediterranean lands. Here, too, education was the earmark of the Jew. Even towns with only a few Jewish families, or for that matter a single one, had their local teachers. Nearly all the condotta s (contractual agreements) drawn up with Jewish loan bankers allowing them to conduct business in towns where no other Jews resided included permission to have a teacher brought by the family to instruct their children. In larger communities, too, there was a tendency by the affluent to engage private instructors. The talmud torah s, originally established for the benefit of the poor, eventually as they became well organized were generally placed in the service of all members of the community. The management of the schools was left to Talmud Torah Societies that operated them according to carefully formulated regulations. The manner and rate of assessment for the maintenance of the schools was usually distributed to all community members. In some towns, as in Ca-sale Monferrato in the 16th century, school funds were raised mainly from obligatory contributions made by those called to the Torah. Minimum obligatory contributions were fixed in Ancona (1644) for those called to the Torah, for men getting married, for families celebrating the birth of a male child, and for the School Society members on specified holidays. House-to-house collections were practiced in some places, as in Modena (tt Society, 1597). Schools had overseers and supervisors. The Talmud Torah Society regulations of Ancona (1644) and of Verona (1688) specified the physical facilities of the building, the authority of the trustees, number of teachers, teachers' duties and salaries, discipline, the program of studies, and supervision. The Modena regulations, as well as several others, state that the school is open to all comers, whether rich or poor, whether local residents or out-of-towners. A number of these sets of regulations spell out in detail not only the manner of collecting funds but also of their disbursement, occasionally specifying that teachers, both men and women, must sign receipts for the books given them, that these receipts are to be handed over to the accountant and must be properly recorded, and so forth.

While the schools were primarily for boys, it appears that girls learned a great deal at home through private instruction, and in the early years some of them seem to have attended the schools as well. Women were knowledgeable enough to instruct children of pre-school level, i.e., below age six, and perhaps some of the school children as well, in reading and prayers. The woman teacher (melammedet) was popular in Italy and her functions and salary are set down in some of the tt Societies' regulations. David *Reuveni wrote in his travel notes that in Pisa (in 1524) he met a young lady who "read" the Bible and prayed daily the morning and the evening prayers. He also met there a wealthy woman who served as a schoolteacher. Later, in 1745, a talmud torah for girls was opened in Rome.

Children attended school generally from age 6 to 14, a practice that was virtually obligatory. Study to age 18 was strongly encouraged. The six-year-old who started school could usually read, having been taught previously by the melammedet who in some cases was also a community functionary, like the teachers in the talmud torah.

The program of study in the early grades was the Pentateuch, the Prophets and Hagiographa, prayers, Hebrew and its grammar. The weekly portion of the Torah was stressed, and the Torah with Rashi's commentary was continued in several grades. In the third or fourth year, the Code of Maimonides was introduced or Caro's Shulhan Arukh, then Mishnah with Obadiah of *Bertinoro's commentaries. The Talmud, burned in 1553 and by decree not printable in Italy, was for nearly two centuries practically eliminated from the curriculum and replaced by the various Codes, particularly Isaac Alfasi's Halakhot, a codified compendium of the Talmud.

An important feature of the Jewish schools in Italy, which distinguished them from the ḥadarim in Central and Eastern Europe, was the inclusion in the program of general subjects – Italian, arithmetic, good writing and style. Following an educational trend that had its origins in the West Mediterranean European lands in the Middle Ages (see above), the schools aimed to train individuals to be at ease in Italian life and society as well as faithful Jews, rather than talmudic or halakhic scholars. The teachers of the secular subjects in thetalmud torahs and the yeshivot were often Christian. In affluent families private teachers also taught music, dancing, and dramatic reading.

Higher learning was provided in the yeshivot which were established in the larger Jewish communities, such as Venice, Mantua, Padua, Modena, Ferrara, Leghorn, and elsewhere. Jewish students also attended general higher schools, mainly medical colleges. Reflective of the cultural tendencies among the Jews of Italy during the Renaissance period is a proposal circulated in all Italian Jewish communities by one David Provenzale of Mantua in 1564, to establish a Jewish university. It was to be a sort of combination yeshivah and university for advanced study of Hebrew, Bible, the Oral Law, Jewish philosophy, good speech and good writing, as well as Italian, general philosophy, mathematics, astrology, and medicine. In such an institution, the proposal stated, Jewish students would feel at ease and would not be influenced by their Christian environment, a comment suggesting that there was at the time some concern about assimilation and possibly conversion. The stress on good speech and good language, applied to both Hebrew and Italian, is particularly illuminating. Good, grammatical, and well-styled Hebrew seems to have been highly valued. The period's Hebrew documents evince great care in writing and editing. Fondness for Hebrew language and literature was widespread. Shabbetai Ḥayyim *Marini, a physician, must have been convinced that he would have a substantial reading audience when he translated Ovid's Metamorphoses into Hebrew. Moses Hayyim *Luzzatto, one of the earliest pioneers of modern Hebrew literature, learned his Hebrew in his native town of Padua. But, Luzzatto's work excepted, the bulk of Hebrew writing in Italy in this period seems to have been that of poetasters, altogether lacking substance and originality. In the 18th century, with restrictions somewhat relaxed, the Talmud became once more the main subject of study in the yeshivot, and there seems to have been a lessening of the emphasis on general secular studies. But when, toward the end of the 18th century, new trends in Jewish education rocked Jewish communities in Germany and Eastern Europe (see next section), they caused only a ripple of controversy in Italy. When after the French Revolution emancipation and liberation from the ghetto came to Italy's Jewry, it was on the one hand quite ready for their concomitant educational and cultural "enlightenment," and on the other hand quite unable to withstand their corollary assimilating powers.

East Mediterranean and North African Lands

In the other Mediterranean lands traditional Jewish education continued in all sizable Jewish communities and moreover there was some intensification in Jewish life and schooling due to the influence of the expellees from Spain who settled in North Africa, the Balkans, and *Turkey. The Turkish cities *Constantinople and *Izmir had substantial Jewish communities in the 16th and 17th centuries and there is a reference to Constantinople as "a city of sages and scribes." A report from the mid-18th century by a Constantinople rabbi speaks of about 1,600 children in that city's talmud torahs of whom about 1,000 received community assistance in the form of clothing. Izmir had a Talmud Torah Society and a talmud torah in which *Shabbetai Ẓevi received his schooling. *Damascus in the first half of the 16th century had about 500 Jewish families and three synagogues. There was no yeshivah there but several teachers were teaching 30 or so pupils each. In 17th-century *Alexandria boys apparently studied to age 13, mostly the Pentateuch, and at their bar mitzvah they held forth on the portion of that week. There is reference to a yeshivah in Arta, Greece, in mid-16th century. *Aleppo in the 17th century had a ḥeder or ḥadarim maintained by two communities, one of which was composed of "*Francos," West European Jews who settled there. A large and important Jewish community in the eastern Mediterranean was that of *Salonika, which had a number of private ḥadarim in the early 16th century. These were later merged to form a central community school. A Talmud Torah Society was organized, buildings were put up, and the institution apparently flourished. In 1564 the talmud torah opened a clothing manufacturing shop, mainly to produce clothes for its pupils. In 1694 the Society also opened a printing press to supply textbooks for the talmud torah and for the yeshivah. This talmud torah and the yeshivah of Salonika became popular in the Balkan area and attracted students from other Greek towns, from Albania, and from some of the Greek islands. Out-of-town Jews contributed toward their support.

In the Maghreb countries the Jews spoke Arabic and Spanish but also taught their children in accord with established tradition, first at home – various phrases, benedictions, and prayers, and even reading. Later, in school, they learned the Torah, prayers, and some of the Oral Law as well. The Bible was studied much more than in the Ashkenazi lands. The majority of the Jewish population, however, was very poor and could not afford adequate schooling. A 1721 document from *Meknes, Morocco, bewails the fact that poverty drives many families to send children of six and seven into trade apprenticeship, appeals for the cessation of the practice, and enjoins tradesmen from accepting for employment children below the age of 13. Even under these difficult conditions Jewish literacy seems to have been impressive to the non-Jew. A Christian minister, Lancelot Addison, in describing the life of Maghreb Jews in his book The Present State of the Jews (London, 1675), states that early in life children are taught at home some Hebrew terms of daily use and from age 5 to 13 they attend school. According to Addison, "there is no boy in the world who can at the age of thirteen give such an accurate account of the laws of his faith as can the Jewish boy."


Dubnow, Hist Russ, 1 (1916), 114–39; I. Fishman, The History of Jewish Education in Central Europe, from the End of the 16th to the End of the 18th Century (1944); Graetz, Hist, 5 (1941) passim; Roth, Italy, index; M. Szulwas, Hayyei ha-Yehudim be-Italyah bi-Tekufat ha-Renaissance (1955).

[Elijah Bortniker]

the modern period, 1800–1939


The political emancipation of Jews in 19th-century Europe was associated with the so-called "Enlightenment" (Haskalah), in the educational and cultural spheres. Its effects differed in the various European lands, depending upon the local culture and politics, and on the numerical strength and the social and economic status of the Jewish populations.

Italy and Western Europe

The small French Jewry, formally organized as a consistory, opened two schools in Paris, one for boys (1819) and one for girls (1821), which were shortly afterward taken over by the municipality. Besides the general, secular subjects they offered a very limited program of Jewish studies. Additional schools of the same type came into being as the Jewish population increased, in Paris and in several other cities, particularly in southern France. After mid-century, however, most Jewish families began sending their children to the government schools. Supplementary religious instruction was at a minimum. In Alsace and Lorraine Jewish education was more intensive, but here too it became mainly supplementary by the beginning of the 20th century. Even more precipitous was the decline of Jewish education in Italy, where for centuries prior to the French Revolution a well-organized system of both elementary and advanced Jewish schools was in operation. Many small communities were virtually depleted of Jews by their migration to bigger cities, but here too a desertion of the Jewish schools took place, especially by those in the upper economic strata. About 1,600 pupils attended Jewish schools in 1901, mainly four-year elementary schools (some with two-year kindergartens, known in Italy as "asili"), accepted by the government authorities as fulfilling the legal requirements of elementary education. Jewish instruction was given in these schools for about one hour daily and consisted of reading, prayers, selections from the Torah, and a Jewish catechism in Italian. Older pupils received "religious instruction."

The rabbinical seminaries in France and Italy were similarly weak. The years 1827 and 1829 saw the establishment of such higher institutions of learning in Metz and in Padua. The Ecole Rabbinique moved to Paris in 1859, but continued to attract some students from the Alsace and Lorraine areas, and later, in the pre- and post-World War i periods, also from the East European Jews who settled in France. The Italian seminary, in its early years under the direction of Samuel David *Luzzatto, attracted a small group of eager young students, but declined after Luzzatto's death (1865). Removal of this Collegio Rabbinico to Rome (1865) did not improve its status. It was reinvigorated when it was again transferred, this time to Florence (1899), and came under the directorship of Samuel Hirsch *Margulies, chief rabbi of that city, who raised its level of scholarship and who introduced a Jewish nationalist spirit into it and into Italian Jewry.

In England, prior to the introduction of compulsory education (1870), Jews maintained schools of their own, some of which continued in existence for many years. When immigration brought many Jews from Eastern Europe, philanthropists established Jewish Free Schools for them in several cities. One of those in London was toward the end of the 19th century the largest school in England, with 3,000 pupils. Jewish studies were allotted limited time, no more than one hour a day. Some of the immigrants, displeased with this meager Jewish program, opened ḥadarim for supplementary instruction. Jews' College, for the training of ministers, was established in 1855. It had at all times a very limited enrollment.

The few Jewish schools that were founded in the 19th century in the Scandinavian countries closed their doors after the introduction of general compulsory education. Religious instruction preparing for confirmation became the accepted form of Jewish education. In Holland too, Jewish education was converted into this type of schooling, but here the Jewish community took it rather seriously, as did also the Dutch people their Christian religious instruction. After the enactment of the law of 1889, which permitted various religious groups to organize schools of their own to be supported by the government, Jewish full-time schools were opened in Amsterdam. Their program of Jewish studies was limited, but Jewish practices were strictly observed, and a Jewish spirit prevailed in them. Some private schools offered a more solid Jewish education. A rabbinical seminary, founded in 1808, began to train teachers as well as rabbis. A small Sephardi bet midrash likewise trained teachers and occasionally a rabbi.

Germany and Austria

The German lands present a more complex picture. Here emancipation and the "Enlightenment" brought about major changes in Jewish style of living and education, strong assimilationist tendencies, and considerable conversion. The old style ḥadarim were replaced by modern Jewish schools for those who did not wish to send their children to the general schools where an anti-Jewish attitude often prevailed. The number of these modern Jewish schools was rather small. Besides, their Jewish program was very meager: reading of prayers, some portions of the Bible translated into German, bits of Jewish history, mostly biblical, and religion and ethics. The traditional study of Mishnah and Talmud was abandoned, even in the secondary schools. After mid-century, when larger numbers began to enroll in the general educational institutions, supplementary schools came into being, from which students usually withdrew after the age of 13. Some religious instruction was also given in the general schools to Jewish students.

There was, however, a movement in Germany that countered these tendencies. Samson Raphael *Hirsch opened a coeducational school in Frankfurt (1855) offering a substantial program of Jewish studies, including Hebrew, Bible, and some Talmud, as well as the general subjects programmed after the pattern of the government or private German schools. A similar institution was opened in Fuerth (1862) after the previously existing Jewish school in that city was made nonsectarian. The Orthodox element, following Hirsch's approach, proved an anti-assimilationist force of considerable strength throughout the 19th century and in the early 20th. Germany also was a haven for many Jewish young men from Poland and Russia who, unable to gain admittance into the Russian universities, came for their higher education to Germany whose language they partly knew via Yiddish. Waves of emigration from Russia to the United States likewise passed through Germany. The students and migrants contributed to an ideological ferment that made Germany, in spite of the decline of its Jewish educational system for the many, a forum for live debates and discussions and study of Jewish religio-cultural life and Jewish issues.

On the higher level of Jewish studies German Jewry made a substantial contribution to scholarship through the establishment in the 19th century of several outstanding rabbinical seminaries. In 1854 the Jewish Theological Seminary was established in Breslau with Zacharias *Frankel at its head. It was a modernly organized institution, open to critical scholarship, yet traditionally oriented, in accord with Frankel's theory of "positive historical Judaism." The historian Heinrich *Graetz was one of the institution's early teachers, and many important Judaic scholars received their higher education in it.

The Higher School for Jewish Science (Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums) was opened in Berlin in 1872 and under Abraham *Geiger's influence came to represent Reform Judaism. However not all of its scholars were followers of Geiger's views, and it included among its teachers strictly observant talmudists and Zionist nationalists. An Orthodox rabbinical seminary (Rabbiner Seminar fuer das orthodoxe Judentum) was also established in Berlin in 1883 by Azriel *Hildesheimer, and it, too, soon became a school of high scholastic standing. These three rabbinical seminaries continued in existence until World War ii.

In the German-speaking areas of the Austrian Empire, Jewish education resembled that of Germany. Although the Vienna Jewish community became numerically large, Jewish education declined. Again as in Germany, a rabbinical seminary was established in Vienna in 1893 which maintained high standards of scholarship. This, too, existed until the eve of World War ii. The Hungarian part of the Empire had two paths of development, an assimilationist tendency in one section of the population and a strong Orthodox one in another. The latter elements gave their children an intensive Jewish education of the traditional type, as reflected in many yeshivot, some in rather small communities. A modern rabbinical seminary was established in Budapest in 1877.

The situation was different in Polish-Ukrainian Galicia, home of about half of the Empire's Jewish population. Here developments resembled those in Poland and Russia. Most of the government schools for Jewish children which were organized under the directorship of Herz *Homberg at the end of the 18th century closed in the first decade of the 19th. The only remaining modern type Jewish schools were the one founded by the esteemed educator Joseph *Perl in Tarnopol which was supervised by rabbis and gained the confidence of many traditional Jews, and a high school in Brody. The number of Jewish children attending government general schools increased slowly and reached some 78,000 in 1900. A new type of Jewish nationalist school (see below, Eastern Europe) made its appearance in the last decades of the century. However most Jewish boys continued receiving their instruction in the old style ḥadarim.

Eastern Europe

Western ideas began penetrating into the Polish-Russian domain after a lag of some decades. In Poland, contiguous to Germany and with many German contacts, the "Enlightenment" first reached the more prosperous and worldly Jewish circles who believed that talmudic training was obscurantist, that the educational system maintained by the communities was backward, and that the cure for these ills was stress on the Polish language and a school program similar to that in the Polish schools. The government, too, was interested in this educational issue, its aim being polonization. A similar situation obtained somewhat later in Russia where the government attempted a russification of the Jewish school and tried to destroy the ḥeder and the yeshivah. Many Jewish assimilationists in both Poland and Russia supported the government efforts. Even some of the non-assimilationist maskilim cooperated with the government, often not realizing its ulterior motives. Isaac Baer *Levinsohn advocated a revolutionary change in Jewish life, with return to such occupations as agriculture and manual trades, and, educationally, a modernization of the program of Jewish studies, and the introduction of secular subjects, particularly the Russian language and civics. He believed that the government intended to improve the status of the Jews. The government exploited this trend of thought and tried to change the ḥeder system under the direction of the rabbi and educator Max *Lilienthal, who was invited from Germany, first to administer a modern school in Riga (1840) and soon (1841) commissioned by the government to establish a chain of modern schools throughout the Pale of Settlement. Most of the Jewish population opposed Lilienthal's enterprise. After a few years Lilienthal himself became convinced of the government's ulterior objective of russification of Jewry and he immigrated to the United States. A number of these new schools continued to function but the majority of the Jews resisted the attempt to convert the ḥeder into a school and the melammed into a teacher and remained faithful to their traditional style of schooling.

The "enlighteners" nevertheless were gaining ground, even if slowly. Levinsohn's ideas of better organized and graded curricula and Lilienthal's modern practices and organization proved attractive to many groups. Westernized Jewish elementary and secondary schools began to appear in various communities. In the 1860s the newly formed "Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia" became influential in limited circles. At first this Society stressed knowledge of the Russian language and Russian culture, but toward the end of the century it came under the influence of the movement for the revival of the Hebrew language that was spreading among the Hovevei Zion and the intelligentsia. The revival of Hebrew as a national tongue became a passionate ideal in numerous nuclei of the large Diaspora of Russian Jewry. Limited though they were in numbers, these small groups soon began to exercise considerable influence in their communities. The search for effective ways to spread the knowledge of Hebrew led to the evolution at the turn of the century of a new type of Jewish school known as the ḥeder metukkan (improved ḥeder) that derived its inspiration from Jewish nationalism, and which rapidly developed into an educational movement. Its leadership included active Zionists, like *Weizmann and *Dizengoff, the poet *Bialik and others of similar stature and status in the Russian Jewish community. *Ahad ha-Am spoke of the "invasion" of the school by Hebrew, the national language. The early ḥadarim of this "improved" kind were founded in the south of Russia – in the Kiev area, in Bessarabia, and in Odessa – and soon spread throughout the Pale of Settlement as well as in Austrian Galicia and sections of Romania. The movement proved a powerful intellectual and administrative stimulus. Men, and women, began studying educational programming and method and successfully organized and taught in the new schools. Hayyim Aryeh *Zuta authored a curriculum for this type of school. Isaac Epstein, linguist and psychologist, pioneered in the method of instruction which became known as Ivrit be-Ivrit (also referred to as the "natural method"). Samuel Leib *Gordon, later to gain renown as a popular biblical commentator, opened a ḥeder metukkan in Warsaw in 1903, and soon afterwards a similar school was opened by Hayyim Kaplan which continued in existence until the eve of World War ii. Some of the "improved" ḥadarim were coeducational, but new schools for girls also made their appearance following the example of Pua Rakovsky's school in Warsaw, which gained considerable repute. A pioneer of the movement, Jehiel *Heilprin, organized a Hebrew kindergarten in Warsaw (1909), and as this enterprise was soon emulated in many other communities, Heilprin opened "Froebel courses" for the training of kindergarten teachers. Efforts to establish a training institution to provide teachers for the "improved" schools were made as early as the 1880s. These failed due to government opposition, but finally, in 1907, the Society for the Promotion of Culture succeeded in opening "Pedagogic Courses" in Grodno under the direction of Aaron Cohenstam in which all subjects were taught, at least partly, in Hebrew. The students were recruited in large part from the circles of yeshivah young men caught in the nationalist spirit. A more limited program of teacher training, including summer seminars, was later started in Odessa. The teachers themselves began to organize under the leadership of P. Shifman in 1906 for educational as well as for professional-economic purposes. A teachers' association was also formed in Galicia under the leadership of S. *Schiller, with the aim of strengthening and guiding the "improved school." Many new textbooks appeared during this period as well as Hebrew publications for children, youth, and adults. The Hebrew language was being revived as a modern language, even if in limited circles. Some Orthodox elements opposed this trend, maintaining that the sacred tongue (leshon kodesh) must not be turned to "profane" use. Assimilationist elements were likewise critical, as they were of the entire nationalist-Zionist movement. The revival of Hebrew however kept gaining ground. The term Hebrew School (bet sefer ivri) that crept into use reflected the new educational trend.

While the old style ḥadarim in Eastern Europe declined in quality, though not in enrollment, during the 19th century, some of the yeshivot saw a remarkable development, this in spite of government interference and of the indifference to them of the modern, so-called enlightened Jewish groups. Many of the leaders of Russian Jewry during the period under discussion were products of these yeshivot, in which high scholarship and originality raised the repute of talmudic studies and added dignity to those engaged in them. The community of the small country of Lithuania pioneered in this respect when the Volozhin yeshivah was established in 1803 and from the very start introduced innovations in the method of study, considerable freedom in students' choice of tractates to be covered, and later the introduction of some general subjects as well, such as history and mathematics. Yeshivot were founded in the following decades in Mir, Telz, Grodno, Radin, and elsewhere. A number of these were centers of distinctive Jewish philosophies, like the yeshivah of Slobodka (a suburb of Kovno), founded by Rabbi Israel *Lipkin, where his views on ethics (Musar) became a major subject, or the Tomkhei Temimim yeshivah of the Lubavitch hasidim where hasidic ideology was stressed. Modern type yeshivot too made their appearance, which included general studies as an integral part of the program, like the yeshivah in Odessa, founded in 1865 and reorganized in 1906 under the directorship of Rabbi Chaim *Tchernowitz (Rav Tza'ir) into an important institution of Jewish scholarship. The poet Bialik and the historian Joseph *Klausner served for brief periods as instructors in this Odessa yeshivah. Another prominent yeshivah, traditional but modernized in its program and organization of studies, was the Torah v'Daas, founded by Rabbi Isaac Jacob *Reines in Lida in 1905; it included in its program Hebrew grammar, Bible, Jewish history as well as Russian, and several general subjects in the humanities. On the eve of World War i the enrollment in some 30 yeshivot in Russia, which at the time included the Baltic states, much of Poland and Bessarabia, was about 10,000 students.

The Balkans and the Lands of Islam

In the Balkans, and in the Muslim lands of the Eastern Mediterranean and North Africa, an important factor in modernization of Jewish education appeared in the second half of the 19th century, that of the *Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU). This organization was an expression of the Jewish group consciousness of French Jews, who, while themselves strongly assimilationist, yet felt the responsibility incumbent upon them to help their coreligionists in these underdeveloped lands. The AIU began its activities in the political field but after about 1860 concentrated mainly on education. It was instrumental in westernizing to a great extent some of the Oriental-style primitive kuttabs and talmud torahs of the old *Ottoman Empire and the Maghreb countries as well as in *Persia and the Balkans. Its first schools were established in *Tetuán, Morocco, in 1862, in *Tangiers in 1864, in *Damascus and *Baghdad in 1865. Soon a large network of schools, numbering on the eve of World War i more than 100, came into being. To train teachers for these schools the AIU founded the Ecole Normale Israélite Orientale in Paris (1867). Students were recruited from the AIU schools in the various countries and their study in Paris was subsidized. The AIU educational institutions stressed the French language and culture, but Hebrew, Bible, and other Jewish subjects were taught in them as well, the extent of the latter varying in different communities and sometimes depending on the personal opinions and sentiments of the local school directors. Other Jewish schools in the communities where the AIU operated were influenced by this educational enterprise. Old ḥadarim underwent considerable modernization. In Izmir, Turkey, a society was formed (1869) to help the education of the poor, mainly in order to ward off the influence of the missionary schools. In the same city regulations were passed earlier in the century prohibiting craftsmen from employing boys who do not know the three daily services. School societies came into being in many other cities of the Muslim lands. One of the largest schools, modern in its organization and program, was founded in *Baghdad in 1865. Recognizing that withdrawal into Jewish studies alone is disadvantageous, it introduced the study of the languages of the country, Arabic and Turkish. In Bulgaria, Hebrew as a spoken language gained a foothold in some schools. The trend reached also some non-Alliance schools in the North African lands of *Egypt, Tripolitania, *Tunisia, and *Algeria. Education of girls, too, became acceptable practice during this period. A girls' school was established in *Mogador, Morocco, as early as 1840. Later in the century a number of such schools, as well as several kindergartens, were opened in Egypt and in *Turkey.

A German society, the *Hilfsverein der deutschen Juden, founded in 1901, also entered the educational area of activities in the Balkan countries and in the Middle East. On the eve of World War i it maintained some 50 schools in these regions, including 29 in *Palestine.

The Period between the Two World Wars

The political upheavals that followed World War i brought about radical changes in the fate of the Jews of Eastern Europe. The Russian Revolution cut off Russian Jewry from the rest of the world and suppressed both Jewish religious and Hebrew-nationalist education. Yiddish was recognized as the language of the Jews in Russia, but in fact Yiddish schooling too was discouraged and was rapidly reduced to near the vanishing point (see below).

A second major outcome of the war was the establishment in Eastern Europe of a chain of new or enlarged states from the fragments of the broken Austrian and reduced Russian empires. The majority of Europe's Jews lived in these states, and they were recognized as national minorities entitled to national-minority status and to specific rights in the educational and cultural spheres. But the new states, as yet uncertain of, and jealous of their new national sovereignty, did not treat their minorities generously, and, steeled in the old tradition of antisemitism, the Jews found themselves a discriminated group. At the same time the Zionist ideal, which in the pre-War period inspired only narrow strata of the Jewish population, suddenly became, on the heels of the Balfour Declaration (1917) and the British Mandated National Home authorized by the League of Nations, a hope inspiring near-reality. This conjuncture of circumstances strengthened the Hebraist-Zionist trend in Jewish education both in the secular and religious groups. (It also encouraged the creation by the radical circles of a nationalist Yiddish movement.) The extreme Orthodox, non-Zionist elements resorted to a passive withdrawal into the traditional life and education, slightly modified to meet contemporary needs. During this period the cultural life of Jewry became strongly politicized, the schools and various courses having come under the auspices or sponsorship of Jewish political parties.

The Orthodox Agudat Israel maintained or supported a network of schools, "Horev," which included hadarim, talmud torah s, and yeshivot, some of them full day schools in which both general subjects and Jewish subjects were taught. In the mid-1930s, "Horev" schools in Poland numbered about 350 and had an enrollment of over 47,000 pupils. Another network, of schools for girls, grew out of the activities of a Cracow seam-stress, Sarah Schnirer (1883–1938). Having noted the neglect of Jewish education for girls, she organized a group of girls into a class which eventually developed into a school. Its success encouraged the establishment of similar institutions, designated as Beth Jacob Schools, in many other communities. In 1938 they numbered 230 in Poland including several day schools, with about 27,000 pupils. In 1929 Agudat Israel took over the sponsorship of these institutions. The Mizrachi Zionist religious party sponsored the Yavneh network of schools. These included kindergarten and elementary day schools and, on the secondary level, mostly supplementary schools. In 1938 the Yavneh system had 235 schools of all types with an enrollment of over 23,000. A major difference between the Agudah and Mizrachi school systems was the attitude to and the use of the Hebrew language. The extreme Orthodox elements had not yet made peace with Hebrew as a modern language. In their view the language of conversation and instruction was to be Yiddish, the language of the majority of Jews in Eastern Europe and the one in which many prominent rabbis had preached. The Mizrachi leaders, on the other hand, with their Zionist philosophy, accepted Hebrew as the language of the National Home in Ereẓ Israel and the desired language of the people in daily life everywhere as well as the language of the sacred lore.

Another large school system was that of Tarbut. In these schools students were imbued in the Jewish nationalist spirit and were oriented towards ḥalutziyyut (pioneering) in Palestine. The Bible was the core of the Hebrew traditional program, and modern Hebrew literature provided the contemporary nationalist orientation. The Tarbut educational institutions included many day schools, both elementary and secondary. By and large the students came from the middle and upper middle classes, the poor being unable to afford them. Nevertheless the Tarbut schools, which in 1918 numbered 50 with 2,500 pupils, grew by 1935 to 270 with about 38,000 students, scattered throughout the Baltic states, Poland, and Romania.

There were also some schools not formally identified with these major trends in Poland and Lithuania, but that were actually under the same type of religious or secular sponsorship. Thus in Latvia Agudat Israel schools were known as "Moriah" and the Mizrachi schools "Tushiah" were similar in their Hebraic-religious program to the "Yavneh" schools in Poland. In several Bessarabian towns and elsewhere there were secondary schools not associated with the Tarbut network, but following virtually the same program. Aside from these major organized groups of schools private unaffiliated ḥadarim of the traditional type continued to function, mostly in Poland. These had, in the mid-1930s, an enrollment of some 50,000 boys.

The above school systems all had their teacher-training schools: the Beth Jacob school in Cracow (established 1925); the bet midrash "Tahkemoni" in Warsaw (1920), which trained rabbis and teachers for the Mizrachi's Yavneh schools, and a similar institution in Vilna; and three Tarbut teacher seminaries, in Vilna (1921), Lvov (1922), and Grodno (1926). In Warsaw there was also a government school for teachers of the "Mosaic Faith" which became Hebraically oriented during this period.

The decline in the economic positions of the Jewish communities brought about considerable enrollment in Jewish trade schools and the study of agriculture in preparation for Palestine. One of the Tarbut schools offered courses in agriculture as did some of the yeshivot of Yavneh. The *Ort trade schools too were popular. In Poland alone in 1934 Jewish trade schools had an enrollment of about 5,000.

The yeshivot suffered greatly from the war, some having closed and others being forced to move. To recover from this decline a Va'ad Yeshivot (Yeshivot Committee) was organized under the leadership of R. Hayyim Ozer *Grodzinski, and numerous yeshivot and "junior yeshivot" (yeshivot ketannot, preparatory to the yeshivot proper) were established within a few years by this committee as well as by other groups or individual rabbis. In 1937 there were in Poland 136 yeshivot with some 12,000 students. Outstanding among these new institutions in its organization, physical facilities, and scholarship, was the Yeshivat Hakhmei Lublin (the Yeshivah of the Lublin Scholars) founded in 1930 by R. Meir *Shapira, who had previously established yeshivot in several towns in which he served as rabbi and who gained renown for his passionate advocacy of "the page a day" idea (daf yomi), that every Jew study one page of the Talmud daily.

In Central and Western Europe the Jewish educational trend continued much in the same direction as it did before World War I. Here and there new schools were founded, and some old schools closed their doors. In Antwerp there were two large day schools. A new day school was opened in Paris. In Gateshead, England a yeshivah was founded in 1927 which attracted students from the West European countries, especially after the beginning of the flight of Jews from Germany and the other lands threatened by the Nazis. Most Jewish learning however was in supplementary schools of limited hours and programs. In the general schools for Jewish students that continued functioning in Germany, England, Austria, and elsewhere time allotted to Jewish studies also remained minimal. On the eve of and immediately after the Nazi rise to power, study of Hebrew became widespread among the Jewish youth of Europe.

In the Muslim lands the Alliance Israélite continued to maintain or support schools, although their number began to decline in the 1930s. There still were 65 AIU schools in 1938, of which 33 were in one country, Morocco. In *Iraq certain restrictions were imposed on Jewish education after the country gained its independence in 1932, but a substantial number of schools continued functioning in *Baghdad and in several other cities. In the East Mediterranean Arab lands the schools took on a more modern Western character while the old style ḥadarim declined. In the Maghreb lands the ḥadarim and yeshivot remained numerous and popular.

All these educational activities of the period between the two world wars – modest in some of the countries discussed above, extensive and vibrant with vitality in others – were terminated in 1939 or soon after when the Germans invaded nearly all of Europe and gained control of North Africa. Even where the Jews were not physically destroyed as in Italy and the North African lands, the restrictions imposed upon them and the dread and uncertainty in which they lived during the German occupation suppressed their educational and cultural functions. The largest and most creative Jewries of Eastern Europe were almost totally destroyed and with them disappeared centuries-old centers of Jewish life, culture, and scholarship. While about two and one half million Jews remained alive in the Soviet Union after the Nazi Holocaust, the discriminatory regime deprived them of opportunities for the free exercise of their religio-cultural life. In this country there was practically no Jewish education of any kind. Fortunately the other large Jewish population centers on the American continent were unaffected by the ravages of World War ii. One-half of the world Jewish population of 13 million was to be found on the American continent. The United States became the largest Jewish population center with 5,750,000 Jews who have created institutions for Jewish learning for both young and old.


A. Chouraqui, Between East and West: A History of the Jews of North Africa (1968), 133–5, 204–13; Elbogen, Century, index; A. Levinson, Ha-Tenu'ah ha-Ivrit ba-Golah (1935); Z. Scharfstein (ed.), Ha-Hinnukh ve-ha-Tarbut ha-Ivrit be-Eiropa bein Shetei Milhamot ha-Olam (1957); idem, Toledot ha-Hinnukh be-Yisrael ba-Dorot ha-Aharonim, 5 vols. (1960–652); M. Eliav, Ha-Hinnukh ha-Yehudi be-Germanyah bi-Ymei ha-Haskalah ve-ha-Emanzipazyah (1960), includes bibliography.

[Elijah Bortniker]

jewish education in europe (war & postwar)

The War Years

In Nazi-occupied Europe normal Jewish education practically ceased to exist. In Western Europe the Germans initially insisted that Jewish children be removed from general schools and educated in Jewish schools. Later, however, when the "Final Solution" was initiated, Jewish education was completely disrupted, particularly in Eastern Europe, where it was officially prohibited. In spite of this ban, clandestine classes in Hebrew and Yiddish were held, under highly dangerous conditions, in most larger ghettos such as Lodz, Warsaw, Vilna, and others. They continued until the liquidation of the ghettos themselves (see *Holocaust). Jewish schools developed during these years in Italy, where all Jewish children had to leave government schools.

The Period Since World War ii

The survivors of the war gathered in Displaced Persons camps. About 250,000 Jews from Eastern and Central Europe were in d.p. camps in Italy, Austria, and Germany. Few children had survived, but for those who did come back from their various hiding places, schools were opened. An education board consisting of representatives of the Jewish Agency, the Joint Distribution Committee, and the DPs was set up in 1947. Work had to start from scratch. Books were reprinted, teachers were brought from Palestine, a complete network of schools was set up, serving all the camps and Jewish communities in the larger towns. Soldiers of the *Jewish Brigade played an important role in this work.

The camps were emptied with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. The vast majority of the Jews in the d.p. camps left for Israel. Those that remained behind settled in various communities in Central and Western Europe. By that time Jews in Eastern European countries could no longer freely leave their place of residence. New Jewish communities grew up in Eastern Europe, whose educational program depended on policies of the governments in their respective countries of residence. No serious educational program was developed in any of the Communist countries except for Hungary and, for a short period of time, in Poland. The Theological Seminary was reopened in Budapest. A primary and secondary Jewish day school was also started, which continues to function to the present time. The total number of children involved in Hungary, however, never exceeded 200–300 out of a total Jewish population of 80,000.

The education program in Poland developed after the era of Stalin and with the return of Jewish refugees from the Soviet Union. Four Yiddish schools were opened for the returning refugees. The language of instruction was Polish, but Yiddish and Yiddish culture were taught. These schools were closed with the reduction of the Jewish community in Poland through emigration and because of a change in government policy after 1967.

There were no Jewish schools in Romania, Czechoslovakia, or Yugoslavia. Very few children received a supplementary Jewish education in any of these countries.

With the collapse of Communism and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Jewish communal life in Eastern Europe underwent a marked revival in parallel with mass emigration. Community organizations now offered a wide range of religious, social, and cultural services, including Jewish education. In 2005 the Federation of Jewish Communities of the Former Soviet Union operated 54 kindergartens, 72 elementary day schools, 15 high schools, and five universities in 65 cities, with a total enrollment of over 15,000 youngsters. In addition it had 15 yeshivot with 700 students and over 100 Sunday schools in 13 countries. The Federation also operated a teacher training institute and a resource center turning out educational materials.

In Hungary there were just three Jewish day schools and a high school in Budapest in 2005, serving a population of around 80,000 Jews countrywide, of which only a few thousand were affiliated to the Orthodox or Neolog community. However, it continued to operate the only rabbinical seminary in Eastern Europe. In Bulgaria formal Jewish education was received at a state secondary school where Hebrew and Jewish history studies were compulsory, while a few Sunday schools were also in operation. Other countries of Eastern Europe, with their small Jewish populations, were also making efforts, whether in talmud torah or Sunday schools, to perpetuate Jewish education.

In postwar Western Europe a new awareness spread among the surviving leadership that education is the foundation of Jewish communal life.

Several factors contributed toward the achievements in cultural reconstruction.

a) The respective governments were sympathetic to the Jewish communities and many helped in the maintenance of the schools. The Swedish government provided grants for the day schools and so did the governments of France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Finland, Germany, and Italy.

b) American Jewish aid, through the Joint Distribution Committee, heavily subsidized educational reconstruction in all Western European countries. The German government paid compensation channeled through the *Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. These funds made it possible to build new schools or to renovate old ones in practically all larger Jewish communities.

c) The creation of the State of Israel was an enormous stimulus for Jewish education.

d) The Jewish Agency through its emissary-teachers played an important role in upgrading the level of education throughout Western Europe.

As a result of all these factors there were in 1969 over 40 day schools, some in communities where none existed before the last war, such as Stockholm, Madrid, Zurich, and Basle.

Parallel with the building program went an effort to train teachers and to prepare textbooks. Individual teachers were sent for training to Israel or to England and teacher-training programs were set up in Italy, Holland, and Belgium, the last one recognized by the Belgian government.

The Claims Conference encouraged the printing of textbooks, some of which were translated and adapted into various European languages.

Israel educators provided in-service training for European Jewish teachers.

Jewish education in 1970 embraced approximately 50% of all children of school age in Western Europe. Out of every four children receiving some Jewish education, three attended supplementary schools and one a Jewish day school. The underlying approach in all these schools was based on religious teaching. Only one day school in Western Europe (Brussels) declared itself to be non-religious. Even this school had to introduce the teaching of festivals and Jewish practices because of the demand of parents. Almost all schools taught Hebrew as a language and were Israel oriented.

The day school system continued to thrive into the 21st century, but with varying levels of enrollment. In Paris there were over 20 such schools, including kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, and religious seminaries, but only 4% of French Jewish children were enrolled in these frameworks, despite the influx of tradition-minded North African immigrants that made France the third largest Jewish community in the world. There was also a rabbinical seminary ordaining rabbis. In Antwerp, most of the community's children were enrolled in seven Jewish schools, receiving an intensive religious education, while another four such schools operated in Brussels.

There were three Jewish primary schools in Germany in 2005, but with low enrollment, and a Jewish high school in Berlin (opened in 1993). In Switzerland, nine schools were operating in five cities. Two Jewish day schools operate in Amsterdam, one each for the traditional communities (primary and secondary school) and the ultra-Orthodox community (primary and secondary school). Furthermore, there are three institutes of higher learning – a kolel, a seminary, and the Institute of Jewish Studies in Leiden. In Italy Jewish schools were to be found in Rome, Milan, Florence, Genoa, Livorno, and Trieste.

For Education in Israel see *Israel, State of.


Enẓiklopedyah Ḥinnukhit, 1–4 (1964). websites:;

[Stanley Abramovitch /

Fred Skolnik (2nd ed.)]

yiddish education

In Czarist Russia

Yiddish had been the language of instruction in the ḥeder and the talmud torah for as long as it had been the vernacular. However, in recent centuries the language itself was introduced into those institutions as a new subject, i.e., the art of writing. The instructor in this subject bore the designation of "Shrayber" (scribe). Ordinances of communities and societies determined his duties and assigned specific periods of time during which he was to "write" with his boys. This was a new tendency in Jewish education, a sort of secularism, since the "Brifnshteler" (as the textbooks were known) introduced new content into the subject of writing.

In the first quarter of the 19th century several of these Brifnshteler were stereotyped reprints of older editions. There is a list of 60 such letter composers. In 1826 there appeared a Brifnshteler by Abraham Leon Dor which was reprinted in 1843, 1861, 1868, 1870, 1873, 1876, and 1882. In 1850 his son, Hirsh Leon Dor, issued "letter learning," a new Brifnshteler, in which he included various kinds of letters, customs, business letters, and arithmetic. This work, too, appeared in several editions. Gradually these works acquired the character of reading textbooks. They introduced anecdotes and fables, ideas for entertainment and humor that made reading "enjoyable," even some elements of arithmetic and geography. These scribes gained entry into all types of schools and in small towns they organized groups and conducted systematic instruction for girls. The method of instruction of these groups carried the name Shura Greizel. In this manner the study of "Yiddish writing" became an attempt at secular education in Yiddish. At first the Russian school authorities tolerated this study, but after 1863 they began to oppose it and finally prohibited it.

A further development in the study of Yiddish was the establishment of the "Sabbath and Evening Schools" for the young (1859). In the 1860s such schools existed in Vilna, Berdichev, Zhitomir, Minsk, and other cities. The official language in these schools was Russian, but lectures were also given in Yiddish on nature study, geography, and Yiddish literature. The Russian government mistrusted these schools, closed some of them promptly, and authorization of new schools was obtained with great difficulty. Nevertheless the number of these Sabbath and evening schools grew and toward the end of the 19th century such schools were found in Vilna, Homel (Gomel), Grodno, Kovno (Kaunas), Yekaterinoslav, Kishinev, Kharkov, Lodz, and elsewhere. Some of these bore a cultural-philanthropic character; but there were also schools on which the teachers and leaders bestowed an ideological character, and they valued the role of the Yiddish language in the program. In the officially required Russian subjects Yiddish was used as an aid language. In this fashion did the Sabbath and evening schools prepare the ground for schools for secular studies in the mother tongue of the children. Schools in the Yiddish language were not legalized by the education authority, and this led to the opening of schools under disguised designations (as in Mir, Dokshitsy, Warsaw). Under various legal excuses the study of the Yiddish language was carried on in the authorized schools. Out of the 53 schools which the Society for the Diffusion of Enlightenment (Mefiẓei Haskalah) subsidized in 1909, there were 27 schools that included Yiddish in their programs, of which 16 were girls' schools, 3 boys', and 8 coeducational. In 1910 there was a school in Kremenchug which conducted instruction of all the subjects in Yiddish. In 1911, in the town of Demievka (a suburb of Kiev) a collective ḥeder established by several progressive teachers, who obtained certificates of melammedim, was legalized, and all the subjects of study were taught in Yiddish. In 1912 teachers and community leaders converted the Warsaw school Hinnukh Yeladim into one of general studies in the Yiddish language. Also the modernized talmud torahs in the country gradually introduced Yiddish into their program.

When World War i broke out, Jewish refugees from Poland and Lithuania flooded the cities of central Russia and the Ukraine. The Yiddishist teachers and the Progressive Democratic organizations began establishing schools for the refugees' children where instruction was carried on in Yiddish, under the approval of the new law of 1914. By 1916 there were several dozens of schools in which Yiddish was the language of instruction. Teachers adopted new methods of instruction, and they created suitable textbooks for the pupils and pedagogic literature for the teachers. The Russian Revolution of 1917–18 brought about great changes in Jewish education.

The Ukraine and Belorussia

During the brief existence of the "Jewish Ministry" and after its liquidation there were under the leadership of the "Kultur Lige" 63 active elementary schools, three secondary, and dozens of kindergartens and evening schools, all conducted in Yiddish. In 1920 the Ukraine experienced the Bolshevik upheaval and the People's Commissariat for Nationalities of the Soviet regime became the school authority over the Jewish educational institutions in the Ukraine, Belorussia, and Russia proper.

The next decade, 1921–31, was very productive in the Soviet Yiddish schools. In the Ukraine there were in 1931 a total of 831 schools with 94,000 students; Belorussia had 334 schools with 33,000 students; and there were also a number of high schools; in all, 160,000 children were given schooling in Yiddish. In the year 1933–34 the attitude of the authorities to Yiddish underwent a radical change and a decline set in; the number of schools diminished annually, reaching a catastrophic low level on the eve of World War ii.


With liberation and unification of the Polish Republic a strong school movement developed among the Jews of that country. In 1920 Warsaw already had 14 all-Yiddish schools with 49 classes and 14 kindergartens, with a total of 2,000 children. Similar developments took place throughout the provinces. At a conference in 1921 attended by 376 delegates, the Central Yiddish School Organization (cysho) was formed, which included as its affiliates Yiddish schools of all trends. In 1921 there were, in 44 Polish cities, 69 Yiddish elementary schools and 35 kindergartens, having altogether 381 classes with 13,457 children.

The Polish government took a hostile position to these new secular Yiddish schools, but nevertheless freed their pupils from the obligation of attending other schools to meet the requirements of compulsory education. Various absurd police accusations were leveled against the schools. Schools were closed and teachers arrested or removed. Nevertheless the network of these cysho schools grew. In 1925 their numbers reached 91 elementary schools with 455 classes and 16,364 pupils; 3 secondary schools with 780 pupils. In 1929 there were 114 elementary schools with 17,380 pupils, 46 kindergartens, 52 evening schools, 3 secondary schools, and 1 teachers' training seminary, a grand total of 216 institutions with 24,000 pupils. The Polish government became ever more reactionary and antisemitic, which resulted in a quantitative decline in the schools, but their quality kept improving. The character of the cysho school became crystallized; its educational approach included also the social and national upbringing of the child, attachment to his people, and an attitude of social responsibility. The methodology of instruction was in consonance with these objectives. The pride of the cysho school movement was the children's sanatorium named after V. *Medem. This was a great creative institution with many pedagogic achievements. On the eve of World War ii it had 250 children, and the institution was open the entire year. The children and teachers were all killed by the Nazis.

The Educational and Cultural Union (Shul un Kultur Farband) of the right-wing Poale Zion and of the nonpartisan organizations tried to open Yiddish schools with a stress also on Hebrew and Yiddishkeit. In 1934–35 they had in Poland seven elementary schools with 818 children. The ideological and programmatic effect of this movement was minimal. The number of the religious schools was large, 2,560 schools with 171,000 pupils. These schools too conducted their program in Yiddish. Thus, over 200,000 children received their schooling in the Yiddish language.


The 1917–18 upheaval in Russia freed the countries of the borderland areas: Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and, in part, also Romania. In these countries the Yiddish language schools went through the same development as in Poland. In 1934 there were in Lithuania 16 elementary schools with 1,555 pupils and 3 secondary schools with 420 students. In 1933 Latvia had 122 Yiddish schools with 6,000 children (45% of the total Jewish child population). The Fascist revolution destroyed these school systems in both lands. In 1934 Estonia had one Yiddish school with 80 children. For a time the Yiddish schools in these countries enjoyed the same status as government schools and were maintained by the state. In Bessarabia (Romania) there were 62 Yiddish elementary schools with 5,757 pupils. The decreed Rumanization of education gradually brought about their liquidation.

United States and Canada

The October 1910 conference of the Poale Zion formulated a policy for Yiddish National Radical Schools and soon afterward the first such school was opened in New York. In 1911 the National Workers' Farband formed a committee to organize and maintain these National Radical schools. This school program was also supported by the Socialist-Territorialists and by non-partisan groups. However, differences of opinion arose on the place of Hebrew in the curriculum. One school in the Bronx seceded from the National Radical movement and, after the death of *Shalom Aleichem, took on the designation of Sholem Aleichem School. In 1918 several schools of this type organized the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute. The Farband likewise changed the designation of its schools to Jewish Folk Schools.

In 1915 a new type of school made its appearance. Members of the Jewish Socialist Federation opened a school in Harlem, New York, and a year later, one in Chicago. In 1916 the Conference of the Workmen's Circle decided to "demand of all its branches that they support the Socialist Yiddish Schools"; and in 1918 their convention declared that the school enterprise was the duty of the entire organization and of its Education Committee. Thus there came into being three different school organizations. The schools of the Workmen's Circle and of the Sholem Aleichem Institute put the stress on Yiddish language and literature and Jewish history; the Farband stressed Hebrew and national traditional upbringing. At the end of 1927 there were 103 Workmen's Circle schools with 6,000 pupils. In 1928 the Farband opened in Montreal a day school visàvis the Folkshulen, which operated as an institution for supplementary education. By 1919 it had 559 pupils; the Peretz schools in Winnipeg had 600 pupils. In 1929 the Sholem Aleichem Institute conducted three schools in Chicago, three in Detroit including a secondary school, and the New York schools with an enrollment of 1,400 pupils. World War ii upset the whole school system. In 1956 the picture was as follows: Workmen's Circle, 85 elementary and six secondary schools; the Farband, 57 elementary schools and seven day schools; Sholem Aleichem Institute, 16 elementary schools and five kindergartens. The International Order, a left-wing organization (no longer in existence), maintained a number of schools with an enrollment of approximately 4,000 as of 1939. In 1969 the various organizations had the following numbers: Workmen's Circle, a total of 50 institutions (kindergartens, elementary, and secondary) with 2,500 pupils; Farband, 21 schools with 1,700 pupils; Sholem Aleichem Institute, nine schools (five of them with pre-school educational programs) and, jointly with the Workmen's Circle, one secondary school.

All these schools faced extraordinary social and pedagogic problems in the early postwar period. The differences in the educational ideologies of these organizations were substantially reduced. Yet each continued its work on its own (with the exception of the joint secondary school and the teachers' seminary). Since that time the large majority of these schools have disappeared.

Latin American Countries

In most of the countries of Latin America with any appreciable Jewish community there were Yiddish schools of which the majority were secular. Such schools were established in Argentina (1917–1921), Brazil (1945), and Mexico (1924) and originally the language of instruction was Yiddish. The schools were oriented to a Yiddish Bundist ideology and in Argentina a teachers' seminary was also established which by 1955 had graduated 265 teachers to work in such schools and had 170 pupils in 1967. However, with the steady acculturation of the Jews the vernacular, by and large, replaced Yiddish as the language of instruction although the schools still styled themselves as Yiddish. The establishment of the State of Israel and particularly the Six-Day War in 1967 gave tremendous impetus to the study of Hebrew.


A few Yiddish language schools, all of them supplementary, are to be found in cities throughout the world under both ultra-Orthodox and secular auspices. In Israel, particularly in Jerusalem, there are many ḥadarim in which the language of instruction is Yiddish and in which the curriculum is hardly different from that of Eastern European ḥadarim of the Middle Ages. In most of the major yeshivot in Israel the language of instruction is Yiddish; the students, however, speak mainly Hebrew among themselves. In England, both in London and Manchester, there were Yiddish language schools associated with the ultra-Orthodox hasidic groups. In these schools a minimum of instruction in secular subjects was given in order to accord with the Compulsory Education Act.


H.S. Kazdan, Fun Kḥeder un "Shkoles" bis Tsisho (1956), 452; idem, Di Geshikhte fun Yidishn Shulvezn in Umophangikn Poiln (1947); Z. Yefroikin, in: Algemayne Entsiklopedye Yidn, 5 (1957), 166–219, includes bibliography; N. Mayzel, ibid., 415–9; S. Rojansky, ibid., 359–47, includes bibliography; E.H. Jeshurin, 100 Yor Moderne Yidishe Literatur (1965), 260–458, a bibliographical list.

[Chaim S. Kazdan]

jewish education in the united states of america

Early National Period

During the colonial and early national periods, Jewish education was not regarded as a communal responsibility. Congregational life was led by volunteer trustees and non-ordained religious functionaries (hazzanim). Indeed, the first rabbi to settle in the United States did not arrive until 1840. While Jews acquired burial grounds, built synagogues for public worship, and established mechanisms for aiding the poor, education was not treated as a public concern. Tutoring in Hebrew language, prayers, and Torah (primarily reading and translating) was provided for a fee, most commonly by independent teachers. On occasion, congregations would contract with an instructor to provide education to indigent children.

In the generation that the American colonies became a nation, the most prominent Jewish religious figure in the United States was Gershom Mendes *Seixas. Congregation Shearith Israel in New York, at which Seixas received his education and which he served as religious leader, conducted an all-day school from 1755 to 1776 and, intermittently, through the early decades of the 19th century. The aim of this initiative was to provide both Hebrew and general studies under Jewish auspices, as an alternative to secular training under non-Jewish, sectarian auspices.

In the early national period, almost all schools in New York City, as elsewhere, were religious in character. "Common pay" (i.e., private) schools generally assumed the religious identity of their headmaster; charity or "free schools," supported by churches, could draw funds from the state. Through a bequest, Shearith Israel established a charity school named Polonies Talmud Torah, in 1803. Starting in 1811, the school achieved equal footing with the Protestant and Catholic schools in the city, benefiting from state financial assistance. In New York, state support of religiously sponsored charity schools continued until 1825; public schools were, gradually, to achieve a monopoly over state funding of education throughout the country.

Shearith Israel's inability to maintain a school on a continuing basis was not only a function of uncertain state financial support, but of an apparent disinclination of its members to enroll their children. This may, in part, have resulted from the lack of educational leadership on a sustained basis. For example, when Emanuel N. Carvalho, a well-qualified teacher who had come to New York from London, served as the school's headmaster, 1808–11, there was a well-subscribed, full day instructional program. When Carvalho moved to Charleston, the school experienced years of intermittent openings and closings, depending on the availability and ability of teaching personnel. The Polonies Talmud Torah eventually turned to the provision of supplementary education, holding sessions on Sunday morning and Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. Primary attention was given to prayers, Bible, preparation for bar mitzvah, and elements of Hebrew language and grammar.

In Charleston, home to the largest population of Jews in America in the early 19th century, the Jewish community allocated no funds for a school – parents had to rely, exclusively, on private tutors. Savannah's Mikveh Israel offered no congregationally sponsored religious education before 1853. With a modest population, rapid acculturation, and a negligible educational infrastructure, Jewish learning in the early national period was at a low ebb.

Emergence of Sunday Schools

As public, non-sectarian schools became increasingly predominant, many Christian Sunday schools, initially established by "benevolent societies" to provide poor children with general as well as Christian religious educational opportunity – and to keep them off the streets on Sunday – became strictly religious institutions. By 1838, there were 8,000 Christian schools of this kind in the United States. Consistent with this trend, American-born Rebecca *Gratz (1781–1869), member of a prominent Jewish family of merchants and community leaders in Philadelphia, aided in founding the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society (1819) and the Hebrew Sunday School Society (1838). Rebecca Gratz was convinced that religious instruction for all Jewish children was imperative, particularly in the face of Christian proselytizing.

One month after securing the approval of the Female Hebrew Benevolent Society for this initiative, the Hebrew Sunday School opened with 50 students and six teachers (including Gratz, who served as superintendent). The volunteer faculty consisted of women respected for their moral character and intelligence. From its inception, the Jewish Sunday School movement was, as its Protestant counterpart, a women's movement. Women founded, directed, and taught at the schools, starting with the Philadelphia prototype, and girls attended alongside boys. In America, children's religious education was considered part of the domain of women, and women thus required religious education to properly educate their children. Financial support came from the FHBS, private donors, and Mikveh Israel (Philadelphia's well-established Sephardi congregation). Parents who could afford to do so paid $2 per year, and an annual appeal was held at a festive public exam.

Gratz's Philadelphia-based efforts benefited from the assistance of the hazzan of Mikveh Israel, Isaac *Leeser. By 1845, Jewish Sunday schools had been established in a number of communities, including New York, Charleston, Cincinnati, and Richmond. As in the Philadelphia model, Saturday and Sunday schools established in other locales were conducted on a coeducational basis. Jewish Sunday schools reinforced the middle class values of public schools and Protestant Sunday schools: obedience, order, punctuality, cleanliness, and self-discipline. They embraced the Protestant division between universal morality (the domain of public education) and particularistic forms (the province of supplementary religious education).

Leeser, who championed Jewish traditionalism throughout his career, authored a Catechism for Younger Children (1839), used in many of the schools. The catechism opened with reflections on religion in general, before turning to the "Mosaic Religion" in particular. He affirmed the divine origin of the Torah and its correct interpretation by the sages; hence, the enduring imperative of both the moral and ceremonial law. The catechism concluded with Maimonides' 13 principles of faith.

Leeser also published a Hebrew Reader, "Designed as an Easy Guide to the Hebrew Tongue, for Jewish Children and Self-Instruction," in 1838. The text devotes 23 pages to the development of skills for Hebrew reading, with the ensuing 25 pages applying those skills to such recurring prayers as Adon Olam, Shema, Ma Tovu, Modeh Ani, the opening paragraph of Birkat ha-Mazon, and Yigdal. While the work was reprinted a number of times, Leeser lamented, in his preface to the 1856 (fourth) edition, that though the book "has met with approbation, still the sale has been very slow, the demand for the various schools being quite small." Leeser, who founded a short-lived Jewish Publication Society in 1845, produced dozens of printed works, along with a widely disseminated periodical (The Occident). Improvements in print technology and the declining cost of printed material led, at mid-century, to expanded publications of all kinds, including evangelical literature. Consequently, Jewish education and Jewish educational materials were essential both to strengthen the faith and to protect against proselytizing missionaries.

Even as he expressed the highest regard for the work of Rebecca Gratz and her assistants, Leeser urged the establishment of an all-day Jewish school for two basic reasons. First, it was impossible to achieve Hebrew literacy in "extra" hours. Second, the public or private schools were, in Leeser's view, essentially Christian. Where it was impracticable to conduct day schools, supplementary education needed to be strengthened – hence, Leeser's support of Rebecca Gratz's Sunday School initiative.

Educational Currents in the Era of Heightened German-Jewish Immigration, 1840–1880

During the period 1840 to 1880, the American Jewish community grew from 15,000 to 250,000, primarily bolstered by the immigration of Jews from German-speaking lands. German Jews spread through the length and breadth of the expanding nation and, with their geographic diffusion, the number of congregations grew from 18 to 277 by 1877. As in the colonial and early national periods, congregations typically progressed from establishing a burial society to forming a synagogue and, only later, providing some form of Jewish education.

In the 1840s and 1850s, many American schools were still conducted by churches, and instruction in the Christian religion was part of the curriculum. Many public schools had a distinctly Protestant tone. Within this context, Jewish day schools were established by immigrant Jews in a number of communities.

By the 1850s, seven Jewish day schools had been established in New York, enrolling more than 1,000 students. Similar schools were initiated in other cities, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, Chicago, Boston, Albany, Cincinnati, Detroit, Essex County, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and Washington, D.C. A typical school of this kind was the one organized by Kehillath Anshe Maariv Congregation, in Chicago in 1853. The school was patterned on similar schools in Germany, where the curriculum included general studies supplemented by instruction in Jewish religion, Hebrew prayers, and Bible reading in German translation. At kam, in addition to English, German, arithmetic, geography, drawing, and singing, prayers and readings from the Pentateuch, as well as catechism relating to Jewish religion and history, were part of the curriculum. The "common" school branches were taught by non-Jewish instructors, with a rabbi or cantor responsible for Jewish studies. The commitment of German-Jewish immigrants to maintaining German culture is reflected in the fact that of the 17 mid-19th century Jewish day schools with extant curricular information, all schools included German.

Several private boarding schools teaching Jewish and secular subjects also operated in the middle of the 19th century. The creation of this variety of day school reflected their founders' interest in the Jewish education of their children, an interest in preserving German culture, a desire for "quality assurance" in their children's schooling (the developing public schools were not, uniformly, seen as centers of educational excellence), and concern about sectarianism in public schools. Intensive Hebrew education was, not always, of paramount interest; often, one hour per day was devoted to Jewish studies.

In the 1840s, Hebrew literary associations, maintaining libraries and conducting lectures, were founded in several cities. From references in Jewish newspapers, it appears that literary discussion groups typically were conducted separately by and for men and women. During the 1860s and 1870s, a new type of organization – the Young Men's Hebrew Association (ymha) – was established in a number of communities (the first ymha had been organized in Baltimore in 1854 but suspended its activities in 1860–68). The ymha aimed to foster improved knowledge of the literature, history, and doctrines of Judaism. The "y" often included a library of Jewish reading matter and offered lectures and classes for young men and women in Jewish history and Hebrew language. Y's thus met the need of young adults for a congenial social and intellectual milieu.

During the 1860s, Christian missionaries operating on New York's East Side operated a school teaching Jewish children Bible in Hebrew. Mission schools, with conversionary aims, appeared in other poor Jewish neighborhoods. In 1864, several congregations organized the Hebrew Free School, as a countermeasure. Five branches were established and, in addition to Jewish education, pupils were supplied with clothing and other necessities. Similarly, Jewish Y's introduced gymnasiums and sports as a counterinfluence to Christian missionaries, and in imitation of ymcas.

While, in the development of American Jewry, the period 1840–80 was, primarily, an era of Western and Central European Jewish settlement and institution building, a trickle of Eastern European Jewish immigration was already apparent by the 1850s. New York's first East European congregation, Beth Hamidrash Hagodol, founded in 1852, established a talmud torah (supplementary Jewish school) for the instruction of children attending New York City public schools. This school was, in the 1880s, to become a communally supported talmud torah known as Mahazikai Talmud Torah.

As public schools, through exclusive state funding, came to be viewed as superior educational settings, Jews (unlike Catholics) increasingly opted for public education. For the American-born generation of parents with children of school age in the 1870s – by which time public education had become well established throughout the country – public schooling was a "given." By 1875, no Jewish day schools remained in operation.

Though, by 1860, there were 150,000 Jews in the United States, there was no institution of higher Jewish learning. All American rabbis were foreign-born and-trained immigrants. An attempt to create an academy of higher Jewish learning, spearheaded by Isaac Leeser, was initiated, in 1867, with the founding of Maimonides College in Philadelphia. Leeser died in 1868, and the College disbanded in 1873.

An enduring college for the training of American rabbis was established by Isaac Mayer *Wise, the institution-builder of Reform Judaism in America. The Bohemian-born Wise, who had immigrated to the U.S. in 1846, succeeded in forming a "Union of American Hebrew Congregations" in 1873, with 34 participating synagogues. In turn, the Union, in 1875, sponsored the establishment of the *Hebrew Union College for the training of rabbis. The college, based in Cincinnati, with Isaac M. Wise as its president, was to take root and grow. Though Wise's vision of the possibility of a "Minhag America," an "American Way," among the Jews of the U.S. was not realized, the UAHC and HUC were destined to become pillars of American Reform Judaism.

It is estimated that, in 1880, there were 40,000–50,000 Jewish children of school age in the United States. Of this number, no more than 15,000 received some type of Jewish education in "Sabbath school" one or two days a week (Saturday afternoon and/or Sunday morning) or through private lessons. "Sabbath school" was generally of three to five years' duration. The curriculum consisted of Bible stories, religious thought (through catechism), and a few Hebrew verses used in worship. The first Jewish children's magazine in America, The Hebrew Sabbath School Visitor, founded and edited by Dr. Max Lilienthal, was initiated as an instructional aid for such schools, in 1874. Commonly, the rabbi served as "Superintendent," and volunteers taught the classes at these very part-time schools. In a paper on "Pedagogics in the Sabbath-School," presented in 1880, Moses Mielziner, professor at the HUC, reported that of 118 congregations affiliated with the UAHC (representing more than 40% of the then existing congregations), only 12 did not have a Sabbath school.

Educational Responses to Mass Migration from Eastern Europe, 1881–1910

Though East European Jews were to be found among the immigrants of earlier generations, a rising "wave" of such immigrants came to the shores of the U.S. in 1881–1910. The new immigration resulted not only from political persecution but from lack of economic opportunity, exacerbated by a fivefold increase in East European Jewish population in the 19th century. Swelled by immigration, primarily (though certainly not exclusively) from Eastern Europe, the American Jewish population reached two million by 1910.

East European immigrants transplanted to the United States the traditional educational institutions of their native lands. The immigrants' readiness to adjust to American life was manifest in their adoption of the public school for their children. On the Lower East Side of New York City, where Jewish immigrants were most heavily concentrated, 38 elementary schools, serving a total population of 65,000 students, included 60,000 Jews by 1905. The most prevalent form of Jewish education established by the new immigrants (primarily for boys) was the ḥeder, a private one-room school, open every weekday of the year. The teachers in most cases were ill-educated men untrained in pedagogy. Parents were too busy with their jobs in the sweatshops or small businesses to have the time to consider the quality of their children's education, or to exercise some control of the ḥeder, as was the case in their country of origin. The "curriculum" consisted of mechanical reading of prayers, study of the Torah portion of the week, recitation of portions of liturgy, and bar mitzvah preparation.

The talmud torah, an educational framework maintained in Eastern Europe for the children of the poor, developed as a promising alternative to the ḥeder in America. It was, typically, founded and managed by residents of a given neighborhood, financed by a paid membership and through synagogue appeals. These schools tended to be staffed by more competent teachers, among them nationalist Jews, products of the Russian *Haskalah and the *Hibbat Zion movement. The curriculum of most talmud torah schools approximated that of the East European elementary ḥeder: Hebrew reading (of the prayerbook), word by word translation – typically, into Yiddish – of the Pentateuch, and the commentary of Rashi on the Torah.

Concomitant with the onset of mass migration was an "awakening" in Jewish life among young, American-born Jews who, by the late 1870s, had lost confidence in the liberal, universalist visions of the era. This awakening expressed itself in initiatives for the revitalization of Jewish education. One manifestation of this agenda was the Jewish Chautauqua Society, launched by Henry *Berkowitz, one of the four men in the initial (1883) graduating class of HUC, in 1893. The Chautauqua Society had been developed by Bishop John H. Vincent of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1874. Begun as an intensive training program for Sunday school teachers (with a summer assembly at Lake Chautauqua, New York), the society established local reading circles and adult correspondence courses. By the 1880s, it had become a forum for the discussion of politics, literature, science, economics, and religion. Dozens of local Chautauqua assemblies were launched; hence, Rabbi Berkowitz's initiative in launching the Jewish Chautauqua Society in Philadelphia (where he served as rabbi of Rodeph Sholom Temple) was also part of a national phenomenon.

The Jewish Chautauqua Society held its first summer assembly in 1894. By 1908, it had 125 circles, with 2,500 members. Starting in 1909, it sent scholars to teach summer courses on Jewish topics at universities (a function which, by the 1930s, was to become the society's central focus), and, in 1915, it initiated a correspondence school. This adult education project sprang from the sense of its leaders and supporters that Jewish education was sorely lacking.

While the Jewish Chautauqua Society focused on adults, the Jewish education of children was, likewise, a significant concern. Indeed, the first book published by the newly established Jewish Publication Society, in 1890, was a revised edition of a work (initially published in England, in 1886) by British children's author Lady Katie Magnus, titled Outlines of Jewish History. The book sold tens of thousands of copies and went through numerous printings.

The first yeshivah day school in the U.S., Yeshivat Etz Chaim, an all-day Jewish school for elementary school boys, was established in New York in 1886. The school's constitution averred that "the purpose of this Academy shall be to give free instruction to poor Hebrew children in the Hebrew language and the Jewish religion – Talmud, Bible and Shulhan Aruk – during the whole day from nine in the morning until four in the afternoon. Also from four in the afternoon, two hours shall be devoted to teach the native language, English, and one hour to teach Hebrew – Loshon Hakodesh – and jargon [Yiddish] to read and write. The Academy shall be guided according to the strict Orthodox and Talmudic law and the custom of Poland and Russia." The general studies program also included grammar, arithmetic, reading, and spelling. Though called a "yeshivah," this elementary school, as others later to be established, differed significantly from its European predecessors, both with regard to the age of its students and to the breadth of its curriculum (which included general education).

In the ensuing decades, additional yeshivah schools, including the Rabbi Jacob Joseph Yeshiva (1900), the Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin (1906), and the Talmudical Institute of Harlem (1908), were established. To meet the continuing Jewish educational needs of Etz Chaim graduates and of teenage immigrants at advanced levels of talmudic study, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS) was founded in 1897, creating a framework for the training of (Orthodox) rabbis. RIETS combined with Yeshivat Etz Chaim in 1915; the expanded institution was headed by Lithuanian-born Bernard *Revel (1885–1940), a scholar who had studied at the yeshivah of Telz and who, after emigrating, had earned a doctorate from the recently established Dropsie College in Philadelphia.

The Reform Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 had led established ("Americanized") traditionalists to band together to create a more traditionalist seminary than the HUC. The driving force behind the founding of the *Jewish Theological Seminary, which opened its doors in New York in 1887, was Sabato *Morais (1823–1897), who had succeeded Isaac Leeser as hazzan of Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia. Among the seminary's founders, in addition to Morais, were American-born, European-ordained Rabbis Bernard *Drachman and Henry Schneeberger, recently arrived Hungarian-born Rabbi Alexander Kohut, and the British-born hazzan of Shearith Israel (New York), Henry Pereira Mendes. In the early years of the 20th century, the seminary received significant financial support from such well established (Reform) German Jews as Jacob *Schiff, Felix M. *Warburg, David *Guggenheim, and Louis *Marshall, who hoped that it would attract Russian Jews and prepare them to be leaders in the Americanization of immigrants.

Under the leadership of Solomon *Schechter (1847–1915), reader in rabbinics at Cambridge University, who assumed the presidency of the fledgling Seminary in 1902, jts became a center of Jewish scholarship and a core institution in the emerging Conservative stream of Judaism. Of great significance in the unfolding history of Jewish education in the United States was the establishment at jts of a Teachers Institute (1909). Mordecai *Kaplan (1881–1983), himself a jts rabbinical graduate, was appointed dean of the new Institute by Schechter.

The Teachers Institute, which was to play an important role in training a cadre of Jewish educators in the decades that followed, was the second Jewish institution for the preparation of teachers to be founded in the United States. The first, *Gratz College, had been launched in Philadelphia in 1893 through a bequest of Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist, Hyman Gratz, brother of Rebecca Gratz. Both of these teachers' colleges, as others established in the ensuing years, were open to and attracted significant numbers of women.

While an organic process of Jewish educational development was in evidence, an "external" event served as the catalyst for a pivotal, communal educational initiative in New York City. In the September 1908 issue of the North American Review, New York Police Commissioner Theodore A. Bingham commented that half of the city's criminals were "Hebrews" and that Hebrew juveniles were emulating the adults in this regard. This accusation served to galvanize hundreds of New York Jewish organizations – synagogues, federations, fraternal lodges, and professional societies – to establish the "New York Kehillah" in 1909. The Kehillah was headed by San Franciso-born, huc-ordained Judah *Magnes (1877–1948), rabbi at New York's Temple Emanu-El. Magnes was close to the premier German-Jewish banking families who formed the leadership of Emanu-el and was the brother-in-law of the prominent Louis Marshall. At the same time, he was attracted to the Yiddish intellectual milieu of the East Side Russian immigrants, among whom he enjoyed a broad-based following.

One response to the Police Commissioner's charge was the establishment by the Kehillah of a Committee on Jewish Education to survey the state of Jewish education and to develop appropriate responses to needs that would be identified. The survey was undertaken by Professor Mordecai Kaplan of the Jewish Theological Seminary and Dr. Bernard Cronson, a public school principal.

The report identified six frameworks within which Jewish education was being conducted:

  1. talmud torah schools
  2. institutional schools
  3. congregational schools
  4. Sunday schools
  5. Chedorim (ḥadarim)
  6. private tutors

The talmud torah schools, opined the researchers, "instill more Jewishness into the lives of the children" than any of the other educational settings; and this, despite the facts that: "homework is never allotted; the discipline is poor; the attendance is very irregular and seldom kept up for any length of time." The institution schools (operated by orphan asylums and social work agencies – often sponsored by German-Jewish-supported charitable groups) – had the benefit of good pedagogy and materials, but lacked the confidence of the population it aimed to serve, "because they do not regard it as Jewish enough insofar as it makes Hebrew only secondary." The congregational school, holding sessions three or more times per week, was typically sponsored by a Conservative or Orthodox synagogue. Here, "the work covered is not very extensive, and is usually confined to the reading and translation of the prayers, and of a few passages in the Bible, with a smattering of a few rules of grammar." Sunday schools, reported the survey, engaged a cadre of public school teachers, mostly women, many of whom volunteered their services. However, these teachers lacked "the knowledge necessary for a Jewish school," and carried out "a vague kind of curriculum…." As to the ḥeder, the researchers described it in the following, critical terms:

A cḥeder is a school conducted by one, two or three men, for the sole purpose of eking out some kind of livelihood which they failed to obtain by any other means. It generally meets in a room or two, in the basement or upper floor of some old dilapidated building where the rent is at a minimum…. The instruction, which seldom goes beyond the reading of the prayer book, and the teaching of a few blessings by rote, is carried on only in Yiddish. The method of instruction is quite unique. It consists of about fifteen minutes of individual instruction, with seldom or never any class work. Each pupil, not knowing when he is needed, straggles in at random, and waits for his turn to come, in the meantime entertaining himself with all sorts of mischief. When his turn comes and the teacher has given him the fifteen minutes, he runs off. There is hardly an ideal aim in the mind of the teacher, except in some cases it is the training for the Bar Mitzvah feat of reading the Haftorah.

The survey could not gauge the number of students who might have been receiving private tutoring, nor did the tally include the handful of day schools and their several hundred students. It was estimated that 21–24% of 200,000 Jewish children of school age were in the talmud torah, institutional, congregational and Sunday schools, and the various ḥadarim.

Ready to undertake communal action to address these challenges, the Kehillah of New York initiated a response which was to be replicated in the decades ahead in scores of American Jewish communities. It established a Bureau of Jewish Education. The Bureau was to provide educational guidance and service, and organize and coordinate activities beyond the capacity of any one school unit to conduct. In the ensuing generation, the concept of community responsibility in the domain of Jewish education was to be embraced by federations and central Jewish philanthropies in cities across the country. The BJE, launched through a $50,000 contribution from Jacob Schiff and $25,000 from the New York Foundation, was, initially, to perform the following specific functions:

1. To study sympathetically and at close range all the Jewish educational forces in New York City, including alike those that restrict themselves to religious instruction and those that look primarily to the Americanization of our youth, with a view to cooperation and the elimination of waste and overlapping.

2. To become intimately acquainted with the best teachers and workers who are the mainstay of these institutions, and organize them for both their material and their spiritual advancement.

3. To make propaganda through the Jewish press and otherwise, in order to acquaint parents with the problem before them and with the means for solving it.

4. To operate one or two model schools for elementary pupils, for the purpose of working out the various phases of primary education, these schools to act also as concrete examples and guides to now existing Hebrew schools, which will undoubtedly avail themselves of the textbooks, methods, appliances, etc. worked out in the model schools….

Dr. Samson *Benderly, of Baltimore, who had served as a consultant to the Kehillah on the Kaplan-Cronson survey and its analysis, was engaged as director of the new Bureau. Having worked with the Kehillah's education committee for a year, Benderly's educational and ideological positions were clear to Judah Magnes and to the Board which hired him. Benderly's ideas were to shape the work of the New York Bureau and influence scores of Jewish educators summoned to leadership in communities throughout the country.

Samson Benderly (1876–1944) was born and raised in Safed. At age 15, he traveled to Beirut to study at the American University. After completing a B.A., he began medical studies. In 1898, Dr. Aaron Friedenwald, professor of ophthalmology in Baltimore, visited Beirut, and encouraged Benderly's interest in coming to the United States. By September 1898 Benderly had moved to Baltimore, where he completed his medical studies at the College of Physicians and Surgeons (he earned his degree and began residency, in June 1900). Concurrently, he undertook to teach Hebrew and direct a Jewish school.

Having, because of the demands of time, to choose between medicine and Jewish education, Benderly chose the latter. His Hebrew immersion program (Ivrit be-Ivrit) included not only Hebrew language, but also Bible, holidays, history, and activities designed to nurture strong connection to Israel. In 1905, he initiated a youth group called "Herzl's children." He used visual aids and incorporated music, dance, and drama as instructional tools.

Though having begun his Baltimore career at a synagogue school, Benderly left, early on, to head the "Hebrew Free School for Poor and Orphaned Children." Interestingly, early in his Baltimore stay, Benderly served as Hebrew tutor to his "patron" Dr. *Friedenwald's son, Harry, then in his thirties, who was to become president of the Federation of Zionists in America – later known as the Zionist Organization of America. At the same time, he tutored Henrietta *Szold (also an adult learner) who was soon (1912) to found Hadassah.

Benderly's "Zionist-nationalist" bent was not unknown to the Kehillah committee that enlisted him. His pedagogic approach, centering on children and the development of a school-based society, was rooted in the progressive education ideals of John Dewey. For Benderly, as for Dewey, all human association – and most assuredly, the intentional constructs of schools – were educative, ensuring cultural continuity. The executive committee to which Benderly reported in New York consisted of five individuals, four of whom were Zionists (Israel *Friedlaender, Judah L. Magnes, Mordecai Kaplan, and Henrietta Szold). The fifth, Louis Marshall, was close to Jacob Schiff, and was likely keeping a watchful eye on the project for Schiff.

Modern Zionism had, already, expressed itself in two "aliy yot" to Palestine, several Zionist Congresses, and numerous Zionist ideologies. For Benderly and his committee, it was the cultural Zionism of *Ahad Ha-Am combined with a commitment to Americanism, which shaped an emerging approach to Jewish education. In the modern era, the Zionist center (Palestine) would, it was supposed, serve as a spiritual hub of renewed Jewish cultural creativity, nurturing Jewish life in the Diaspora. Consistent with the findings of the Kaplan-Cronson report, the vehicle which Benderly and his supporters saw as best suited to furthering Jewish consciousness and commitment to Jewish ideals was the talmud torah school.

Institutional Development, 1910–1945

The New York bje, created as a mechanism for improving and expanding Jewish education in a burgeoning community, undertook a vigorous program of federating and supporting talmud torah schools, providing in-service professional training to educators, writing modern textbooks, and recruiting pupils. Talmud torah curricula – typically, Hebrew-based (consistent with cultural Zionist nationalism) – included Hebrew language and literature, Bible, festivals, Palestine (as the source of Jewish creativity), selections from Midrash and the Talmud, Jewish history, and some degree of synagogue ritual familiarity (customs and ceremonies). Among the curricular innovations of the bje was the use of arts and crafts and of music and dramatics in the instructional program. The BJE also gathered together graduates of the various talmud torahs and organized a Hebrew High School. A Board of Teachers' License and a Hebrew Principals' Association were organized; a summer camp was opened; the League of Jewish Youth was organized. Benderly successfully encouraged a group of young American Jews to study both Judaica and education, in preparation for professional careers in Jewish education.

Bureau-supported communal talmud torah schools had a decidedly Hebraic-Zionist emphasis, with much of the instructional program conducted Ivrit be-Ivrit (in Hebrew). Communal sponsorship and the Hebrew language emphasis (a cultural unifier) established the talmud torah as a community, "non-denominational" program. With few exceptions, talmud torah schools operated on a coeducational basis, consistent with the prevailing practice in public schools and Sabbath schools. As in Sabbath schools and public schools, women were well represented in the teaching force.

Yiddish (secular) schools offered a significant alternative. Starting in 1908, in Brownsville, New York – an area with a large, working class population noted for socialist leanings – Yiddish schools of various kinds were founded in every major locus of Jewish settlement. Among the larger networks of Yiddish schools were those of the Arbeiter Ring (Workmen's Circle), grounded in secularism and radicalism. Such schools were essential, their sponsors believed, both because the public schools were largely controlled by capitalists and because education in "Yiddishkeit," the culture of the immigrant generation, would bridge the disaffection between immigrant parents and their American-born and educated children. By the mid-1920s, the peak period of Yiddish secular education, 10,000 to 12,000 children attended folkshuln which centered on the study of Yiddish. At the other end of the spectrum, Orthodox day schools continued to be established in the early decades of the 20th century, though at a slow pace. In 1928, 4,290 students were enrolled in 17 such schools. Immigration restrictions, implemented in 1925, put an end to the massive influx of immigrants; by that time, more than 4 million Jews called America home.

A noteworthy structural opportunity for part-time Jewish study presented itself, beginning 1913, with the spread of the "Gary Plan" initiated in Gary, Indiana. The "Gary Plan," among other innovations, authorized release time during the school day for religious instruction, off campus. In New York, the plan was supported by the Reform movement and opposed by supporters of the talmud torah system. Reform educators were finding Sunday-only instruction insufficient to meet their Jewish educational goals. Release time might have represented a "slot" for additional instructional time. The Gary Plan, on the other hand, lengthened the school day. Supporters of the 5-days-per-week talmud torah, which drew children from multiple public schools, were concerned about negative impact on scheduling and enrollment in the established, more intensive Jewish educational programs. While the Gary Plan did not long survive, it evoked varying pronouncements within the Jewish community on church-state considerations relating to education. Discussions of "strict separation" of church and state were to become a matter of considerable debate later in the 20th century surrounding the issue of public funding in support of education in non-public schools.

Non-Formal Education

In 1913, many of the country's YMHAs and YWHAs (which had come into being starting in 1888) organized to form the Council of Young Men's Hebrew and Kindred Associations. The Y's cooperated with the Jewish Welfare Board, established in 1917, to provide Jewish chaplains and support services (starting with meeting religious needs) for Jews serving in the armed forces. In 1921, the Council of Young Men's Hebrew and Kindred Associations merged with jwb. Many mergers of YMHAs and YWHAs ensued, with most of the "new" institutions taking the name Jewish Community Center. In 1990, the JWB itself was to be renamed the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America. From their inception, the centers inherited from the Y's a culture of Americanizing Russian Jewish newcomers.

The first Jewish residential camps date to the closing decade of the 19th century, and a 1936 directory of Jewish camps sponsored by Jewish communal organizations listed 88 such camps in the U.S. and Canada. In the "fresh air" camps, Jewish experiences were, by no means, paramount; rather, good health and Americanization were emphasized. Under the influence of progressive educational thinking which recognized the rich possibilities for individual and group development inherent in camping, Jewish educational camping was launched starting in 1919 by Dr. Albert P. Schoolman. Schoolman, a disciple of Samson Benderly, founded CEJWIN (Central Jewish Institute) camps, to use the summer months to continue and strengthen the educational program of the Institute's talmud torah program. Jewish camps of diverse ideologies, both communal and private, were soon operating.

In the early decades of the 20th century, informal Jewish youth movements were formed, including such Zionist youth groups as Young Judaea (1909), Hashomer Hatzair (1923), AZA (1924), and Habonim Dror (1935). The (Reform) North American Federation of Temple Youth – NFTY (1939) and (Conservative) Leadership Training Fellowship (1945) followed suit. By 1940, there existed 30 American, nationally organized Jewish youth groups. Many served young people ages 18 to 25 or 30; only four (Young Israel, Agudat Israel Youth, Young Judea, and Hashomer Hatzair) served children under 12 years of age. Tabulation of membership in 26 of the 30 national Jewish youth organizations for the year 1939–40, showed 61,019 males and 99,262 females participating.

As young immigrants and the children of immigrants proceeded in increasing numbers to colleges, Jewish campus organizations were initiated. The Menorah movement began with the founding at Harvard University of the Harvard Menorah Society for the Study and Advancement of Jewish Ideals, in 1906. Jewish student organizations were, similarly, founded at several other universities. At a convention at the University of Chicago, the Intercollegiate *Menorah Association was launched, in 1913. The object of the IMA, as articulated in its constitution, was "the promotion in American colleges and universities of the study of Jewish history, culture and problems, and the advancement of Jewish ideals." Basic elements of any Menorah Society were lectures and study circles. By 1917, there were more than 60 such societies.

The exclusively intellectual focus of the IMA made it less appealing to many collegiates than the *Hillel Centers, which emerged in the 1920s. Hillel, which began at the University of Illinois in Champaign in 1923, encouraged social and cultural as well as scholarly programs. B'nai B'rith undertook sponsorship of Hillel in 1925, and Hillel Foundations were soon established at Wisconsin, Ohio State, West Virginia, California, Texas, and Cornell. The Intercollegiate phase of the Menorah Association ended by the late 1920s.

Institutions of Higher Learning, National Organizations, New Initiatives

In addition to Gratz College and the Teachers Institute of jts, institutions for the education of Jewish teachers were established in New York, Baltimore, Boston, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Chicago between 1917 and 1929. The communal model of talmud torah education seemed headed for ascendancy in the American environment, and Hebrew teachers colleges, it was anticipated, would train the necessary faculties for a growing educational system. Moreover, these institutions were centers of higher Jewish learning, and their instructors often saw their mission as nothing less than ensuring the continuity of Jewish life.

As the teaching profession grew – in number of practitioners and level of training – several teachers' organizations were established, including a Hebrew Teachers Union. To link the efforts of communities across the country, the National Council for Jewish Education was created in 1926, as a forum for Jewish educational leaders. This organization became a catalyst for the establishment (1939) of the American Association for Jewish Education (AAJE) as a national service agency in the field of Jewish education. The AAJE served, in part, as a link among and between local bureaus of Jewish education which were, increasingly, becoming educational service providers to synagogue schools, rather than talmud torah operators.

An enrollment shift towards synagogue-based schools (as Jews moved from urban centers) was, already, in process after World War I. In the generation of 1910 to 1935, the percentage of children enrolled in synagogue-based Jewish schools rose from 35% to 60%. While talmud torah schools commonly met 4–5 days, 10–12 hours per week, congregational schools typically provided no more than 6 weekly hours of instruction and often lacked clear, curricular goals. In a notable resolution (1923) which, very gradually, came to be mirrored in practice, the Commission on Jewish Education of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, headed by Emanuel *Gamoran, a disciple of Benderly, urged that UAHC schools add a week-day session to the existing Sunday program. The Conservative movement's Commission on Jewish Education of the United Synagogue was established in 1940, and urged an educational program of no fewer than 6 hours per week.

Despite the decline of the communal, Hebraic-Zionist-oriented talmud torah, the supplementary schools operated by congregations of the growing Conservative movement continued to emphasize Hebrew language, and were commonly known as "Hebrew schools." While Hebrew had, at one time, been seen as a means to accessing classical Jewish texts ("talmud torah" in the sense of studying Torah), Hebrew proficiency – both in communal and congregational schools – gradually assumed paramount status, with classical (Hebrew) texts studied with the aim of improving Hebrew language proficiency.

Beyond the earlier-established HUC, JTS, and RIETS, a number of academies and yeshivot of higher Jewish learning were established in the early decades of the 20th century, as East European immigration continued. These included Tifereth Yerushalayim of New York (1908), Torah V'daath of New York (1918), Hebrew Theological College of Chicago (1921), Ner Israel of Baltimore (1934), and the Jewish Institute of Religion, organized in New York, in 1922 (JIR, founded by Stephen S. Wise, was to become part of HUC in 1950). JIR, a liberal rabbinical seminary, was – unlike HUC – pro-Zionist and welcoming of the immigrant East European Jews. Through a bequest of Moses Aaron Dropsie, *Dropsie College, an independent, non-theological institution dedicated to research in Jewish studies and related branches of learning, was established in Philadelphia in 1909.

In 1928, the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (riets) opened a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, alongside its rabbinical school. Yeshiva President Bernard Revel recruited Rabbi Moses *Soloveichik, scion of a world-renowned rabbinic family, to head the RIETS faculty in 1929. On the death of Rabbi Soloveitchik (1941), his son, Rabbi Joseph *Soloveitchik, talmudic scholar and Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Berlin, became head of the RIETS Talmud faculty. The "Rav," as Soloveitchik came to be known, was to emerge as the "towering ideologue" of American Orthodoxy in the 1940s and beyond.

At Hebrew Union College, Kaufman *Kohler served as president in 1903–21. Kohler, whose religious ideology was expressed in the Pittsburgh Platform of 1885, expanded the faculty, brooking no tolerance of Zionist leanings. He was succeeded as president by Julian *Morgenstern, an HUC alumnus, and professor of Bible. During Morgenstern's tenure (1921–47), a dozen European Jewish scholars found a haven at the College, largely through his efforts.

At the Jewish Theological Seminary, Solomon Schechter was succeeded as president by Cyrus *Adler, who served until his death in 1940. Adler, an American-born, Hopkins-trained semiticist, took part in founding the Jewish Publication Society of America (1888), was a founder of the American Jewish Historical Society (1892), served on the staff of the Smithsonian Institution, played a leading role in the reorganization of the Seminary and its engagement of Solomon Schechter, was President of Dropsie College, and edited numerous publications, including the first seven volumes of the American Jewish Yearbook and the Jewish Quarterly Review (1916–40). Consistent with Adler's personal interests, it was during his tenure that JTS developed a pre-eminent library collection. Adler's successor was Louis *Finkelstein, a JTS alumnus. Both HUC and JTS had thus succeeded in educating leaders who could carry forward the spiritual-religious mission articulated by these institutions' founders.

Between 1917 and 1939, four "progressive" Jewish day schools were established; these schools aimed to synthesize progressive and Jewish education. Limited time was devoted to Hebrew studies. Three of these schools closed their doors after brief periods of operation for lack of pupils and financial support. The fourth of the progressive schools (Brandeis "bi-cultural" school) eventually affiliated with the Conservative movement.

In 1937, the Ramaz School in Manhattan and Maimonides School in Boston were established. These Orthodox day schools aimed at providing outstanding general education alongside excellent, classical Jewish education. Each of these schools was to grow and develop (continuing into the 21st century), serving as a model to future generations of modern Orthodox day schools. In 1939, an experiment in Jewish pre-school education was initiated in New York, with the establishment of Beth Hayeled (House of the Child) School. Children entered the program at the age of three, remained at Beth Hayeled five years, and transferred to public school (and a neighborhood talmud torah) in third grade. Soon after this program began, additional such early childhood "foundation" schools were established.

Though, by the beginning of World War ii, there were 7,000 students in 30 day schools (almost all of which were in New York), most Orthodox leaders shared the view that, when it came to formal Jewish schooling, the congregationally sponsored talmud torah was to be the primary institutional framework for religious education. In 1942, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations published a curriculum guide for talmud torah education. The curriculum was designed, ideally, for a ten-hours-per-week school. Interestingly, as in the educational programs developed and promoted by Samson Benderly and his protégés, the Orthodox "Model Program" called for Ivrit be-Ivrit (Hebrew-based) instruction. Though influenced by the pedagogic approach of the Benderly "school," the UOJC manual made it clear that it brooked no tolerance for deviation from traditional Jewish belief and practice.

With the relocation of several leading personalities of Jewish educational life from Europe to the United States before and during World War ii, a number of new institutions appeared on the American scene. These included Lubavitcher schools, established with the arrival of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1940, the creation of Bais Yaakov (*Beth Jacob) girls schools in the early 1940s, and the establishment, in 1941, of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland and, in 1943, the Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. In 1944, under the impetus of Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz, an immigrant from Austria-Hungary, who had studied with noted European rabbinic scholars and significantly expanded Brooklyn's Torah V'daath yeshiva, an ambitious Orthodox day school initiative was launched.

Mendlowitz, who had devoted himself to Jewish education in the U.S. since his arrival in 1913, aimed to "jump start" and unite a national network of (Orthodox) yeshivah day schools. Towards that end, Mendlowitz enlisted Samuel *Feuerstein, a successful business executive, to serve as president of the "Torah Umesorah Society for the Establishment of Torah Schools." The articles of incorporation of the society firmly established the ideological authority of a body of Orthodox rabbis in all matters of religious life appertaining to its functions; indeed, the Rabbinical Supervisory Council would determine the very scope of its jurisdiction, since it would decide what constituted a religious matter. A group of Orthodox rabbinical leaders was enlisted, and Torah Umesorah launched into the work of advocating the establishment of hundreds of Jewish day schools, nationwide.

Jewish Education in a World Transformed, 1945–1975

The dominant motifs of American Jewish life in the period 1945–75 were suburbanization and institutional growth. In the 1950s and 1960s, at least a billion dollars were spent building a thousand new synagogue buildings. Many of the young families who relocated to new suburban areas had not previously been involved in synagogue life. The synagogue, however, represented an expression of Jewish group feeling and was seen as a primary vehicle – particularly with the decline of "Jewish neighborhoods" – for the Jewish education and socialization of the younger generation. The Union of American Hebrew Congregations grew from 334 member congregations in 1948 to 664 in 1966, while the United Synagogue grew from 350 affiliates at the close of World War ii to 800 by 1965. With the growth of Los Angeles Jewry – from 160,000 to 480,000, in the period 1945–65 – a West Coast branch of the Jewish Theological Seminary (*University of Judaism) was established (1947), as was a branch of Hebrew Union College (1954). In the 1950s and 1960s, the rate of synagogue affiliation climbed from the 20% of the 1930s to nearly 60%. American society validated Sunday school attendance as an expression of wholesome, middle class values.

One hundred forty thousand Holocaust survivors came to the United States after World War ii, joining more than 200,000 refugees who had been admitted to the U.S. between Hitler's rise to power in 1933 and America's entry into the war, late in 1941. Among the most recent arrivals were Jews from traditional Jewish societies, who served as a "cultural booster shot," advancing demand for more substantial Jewish education. At the same time, the establishment of the State of Israel heightened Jewish identification among many American Jews, and excitement surrounding the founding of the State of Israel seemed to validate the teaching of modern Hebrew.

The post-World War ii baby boom, combined with heightened synagogue and Jewish (largely synagogue-sponsored) school attendance brought about a trebling – in one generation – of students enrolled in Jewish schools, from 200,000 in 1937, to 588,955 in 1962. While, in the 1930s, only an estimated 10,000 students (5% of total enrollment) were in high school programs of Jewish education, by 1959, closer to 10% of the expanded population of students was to be found in Jewish secondary schools. Conservative congregational schools aimed to meet 6 hours per week (typically divided among three sessions) and the curriculum included Hebrew, prayerbook, history, Bible, customs and ceremonies, current events, and songs. By the late 1940s, 25% of Reform congregational schools had introduced weekday (in addition to Sunday) sessions. Instruction included holidays, biblical and post-biblical heroes, Jewish history and literature, Hebrew, prayers, Bible selections, singing, current events, and modern Jewish problems, and Jewish contributions to civilization.

Growth of Day Schools

Spearheaded, often, by Orthodox refugees who had found asylum in the United States, Jewish day schools, which had been rare phenomena before 1940, rapidly proliferated. From 30 day schools with 7,000 students in 1940, the "system" grew to 95 schools with 14,000 students in 1946, to 330 schools with 67,000 students in the early 1970s. By 1975, there were 425 Orthodox day schools (including 138 high schools) with a total enrollment of 82,200.

Although most Torah Umesorah schools devoted half of the school day to "Torah studies" and half of the day to general education, there was considerable diversity in outlook. While some schools emphasized the complete subordination of all study to a "Torah mindset," "integrationists" sought to achieve "synthesis" of Judaism and Americanism. Such ideological differences influenced the apportionment of time between Torah studies and general studies, the language of religious studies instruction, the choice of texts (within the "sea" of classical Jewish sources), and the structure of the school day.

Writing in 1973, Alvin Schiff distinguished between Orthodox Hebrew day schools, traditional yeshivot, and hasidic schools, noting that in the latter two categories – accounting for one-third of U.S. day schools – 30–40 hours per week were dedicated to Jewish studies and 10–15 hours (frequently less) to general education. From the 1940s to the 1960s, significant numbers of Torah studies educators were European immigrants. As Orthodox rabbinical seminaries grew and yeshivah day school enrollment escalated, American-educated teachers – themselves yeshivah graduates – became, increasingly, common. While the great majority of day schools were under Orthodox sponsorship, it was estimated, in the 1960s, that one-third of the students enrolled in yeshivah day schools were from other than Orthodox homes.

A number of Conservative congregations launched day schools under synagogue sponsorship, in the years after World War ii. In 1946, Congregation Anshe Emet (Chicago) opened a day school, followed in 1950 by Temple Beth El in New York. By 1958, there were 14 Conservative day schools. Additional Conservative day schools were founded in the late 1950s and 1960s; in 1964 the (Conservative) Solomon Schechter Day School Association was formed. By 1977, nearly 10,000 students were enrolled in 50 Solomon Schechter schools.

Notwithstanding movement opposition to the establishment of day schools, two Reform temples – Congregation Rodeph Sholom in New York and Temple Beth Am in Miami – opened such schools in 1970. The emergence of Reform day schools – in 1970, and subsequently – represented a coalescence of parental concern for quality secular education and the interest of rabbinic leadership in quality Jewish education. Of great significance was the fact that, as confidence in public education eroded, private schooling was undergoing "democratization" in the eyes of many Reform Jews. By 1981, there were nine Reform day schools. Not until 1985, however, were day schools approved by the UAHC, and, subsequently (1990), a Reform day school network (pardes – Progressive Association of Reform Day Schools) established.

During the period of mass Jewish migration to the United States, the public school had been a key agent of Americanization. By the closing decades of the 20th century, at a time of increasing acceptance of ethnic and religious diversity and, among Jews, of greater openness to and the economic means of accessing private education, many children and grandchildren of Americanized immigrants chose to send their children to Jewish day schools. For many of these students and their families, the school experience now served a Judaizing function, nurturing intensive knowledge of and commitment to a Jewish way of life.

Congregational Education in the 1960s and 1970s

Notwithstanding the rapid growth in enrollment and the proliferation of congregational schools, curricula had not developed, substantially, for decades. Responding to this reality, and to the sense that congregational schools were missing the mark, a flurry of curriculum initiatives was launched in the 1960s and 1970s. The Melton Center (at the Jewish Theological Seminary) published curricular materials on Bible and holidays. Experimental editions of the UAHC's Shuster Curriculum began appearing in 1977, and the United Synagogue produced its Menorah curriculum in 1978. Behrman House published textbooks at all levels, utilized by both the Conservative and Reform congregational schools.

One of the noteworthy additions to the new curricula was the study of "comparative religion."

The National Conference of Christians and Jews had been established in 1928, and the interfaith "goodwill" movement gained strength after World War ii In 1955, Will Herberg published his classic Protestant, Catholic, Jew. On this backdrop, the UAHC published Our Religion and Our Neighbors, in 1963, and Behrman House published Judaism and Christianity: What We Believe, in 1968. Students who mastered the information in these texts could recognize certain similarities and differences between Jewish and Christian beliefs about God, human nature, sin, and salvation. They would also learn about various life cycle events, calendars, and liturgies. The textbooks encouraged their readers to view themselves as no different from their neighbors in values and citizenship, while suggesting the maintenance of boundaries between Jews and Christians in a narrowly circumscribed religious sphere.

In 1959, the AAJE published the "Report of the Commission for the Study of Jewish Education in the United States." The report estimated that 40–45% of Jewish children ages 5–14 were, in 1959, receiving Jewish schooling – though upwards of 80% were enrolled in Jewish education at some time during their elementary school years. It "pegged" the average stay at 3–4 years.

With regard to the profile of teachers teaching in various school types, the report distinguished between Sunday school, weekday (supplementary) school, and day school faculties. It found that, among day school faculty members, 69% were men/31% women, and that 62% of teachers were foreign-born; among weekday Hebrew school teachers, the data showed 64% women/36% men – 61% foreign-born; among Sunday school teachers, 64% women / 36% men – 90% U.S.-born. With reference to the qualifications of teachers, the report (which was based upon an extensive survey) noted that of the "pool" of Sunday school teachers, 58% claimed nothing beyond elementary Jewish education of some sort, and 9% claimed no Jewish education.

In 1950, the Jewish Educators Assembly of the Conservative Movement was established, followed by the (Reform) National Association of Temple Educators in 1954. Yet, with the collapse of the talmud torah system, there were few full-time teaching positions outside of day schools in Jewish education, and a lack of qualified personnel. There was a decided tendency, in the 1960s and 1970s, to embrace pedagogic trends in public education, including audio-visual technology, programmed instruction, values clarification, and cooperative learning. A 1967 study conducted by the American Association for Jewish Education showed that 42.2% of students enrolled in Jewish schools were in one-day-per-week programs; 44.4% in 2 to 5-days-per-week programs; and 13.4% in day schools.

New Settings of Jewish Education

A much different educational phenomenon, first emerging on a modest scale in the 1940s, was the kolel. The kolel, a full-time program of advanced talmudic study for adult men (supported by stipends) of outstanding scholarly ability, was introduced to the U.S. by Rabbi Aaron *Kotler at the Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood in 1943. The Lakewood kolel began with 12 graduates of American rabbinical schools. In 1945, 15 men who had been Rabbi Kotler's students in Europe joined the kolel.

A second kolel, Beth Medrash Elyon of Monsey – an extension of Brooklyn-based Mesivta Torah Vodaath – soon followed. While, in 1950, there were no more than 50–100 persons studying in American kolelim, by the end of the 1970s the number of kolel participants exceeded 1,000. Beyond the numerical growth, a cultural transformation had occurred over the course of a generation: the latter-day kolel was no longer exclusively for the elite, most outstanding students.

Yet another Jewish educational development which came into full flower in the 1940s was the Jewish residential summer camp. Early Jewish residential camps, dating back to the years before World War I, had been sponsored by philanthropic agencies to provide relief from tenement conditions and to teach immigrant children "American ways." As earlier noted, camping as a Jewish educational vehicle was first explored by Albert P. Schoolman, principal of the Central Jewish Institute in New York (an educational center influenced by the theories of Mordecai Kaplan) in 1919. Schoolman's Camp CEJWIN, originally envisioned as a bridge between the school year and the summer months, provided enveloping experiences in Jewish living and served as a training ground for young adults entering careers in Jewish education and social service.

In the 1920s and 1930s, a number of Yiddish and Zionist camps were launched, including camping initiatives by Hashomer Hatzair, Habonim, Young Judea, and B'nei Akiva (then known as Hashomer Hadati). The first Hebrew-speaking camp, Camp Achvah, was established by Samson Benderly in 1927. Though it provided a rich educational experience, the Depression dashed its early promise.

A more enduring Hebrew-based, Zionist camp, Camp Massad, opened in 1941, led for many years by founding Director Shlomo Shulsinger. In 1944, the Boston Hebrew Teachers College opened Camp Yavneh to advance the knowledge of students of the Hebrew Teachers College and to encourage the use of Hebrew outside the classroom. The Conservative movement entered the arena of Jewish educational camping with the opening of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin in 1947. NFTY held its first encampment at the UAHC's newly purchased camp in Wisconsin in 1951. In the 1940s and 1950s, scores of Jewish residential camps were established, coast to coast. While, prior to 1947, Jewish camping had been avowedly pluralistic, the opening of Ramah and, subsequently, of the Union Institute (Oconomowoc, Wisconsin), represented a move to a denominational agenda within the universe of Jewish educational camping. Within a few years, both Ramah and Union Institute became full-scale camping movements, often serving as training grounds for the development of the movements' leadership, lay and rabbinic.

Jewish youth groups continued their growth and development after World War ii. Among the "new entries" were (Conservative) United Synagogue Youth (1951) and (Orthodox) National Conferences of Synagogue Youth (1959). Educators often encouraged students to participate in school, youth group, and residential summer camp, to maximize Jewish educational opportunity.

During the first half of the 20th century, a variety of Jewish community centers were created. In the settlement house era, such centers often focused on "Americanization" of Jewish immigrants. In the course of the Great Depression of the 1930s, JCC services to the broader community became common; many of the centers' professionals saw JCCs as agents in the mission of social reconstruction. During World War ii, many Jewish centers had organized nursery schools and kindergartens to provide care for the children of working mothers. These early childhood programs became an integral part of the centers' "menu" of activities.

With increasing suburbanization, new Jewish community centers were built in emerging areas of Jewish population. In the two decades after World War ii, $125 million were invested in new JCC facilities. In an effort to clarify the mission of the JCC in the new era, the Jewish Welfare Board, umbrella organization of the Jewish Community Centers, commissioned a study (1945–47) aimed at articulating the direction to be taken by Jewish centers at mid-century. Summarizing the data, the author of what came to be known as the "Janowsky Report" noted that very few centers provided an atmosphere reflecting intensive Jewish interest or activity. While the report called upon centers to promote Jewish activity, it did not offer guidance as to how the program of centers was to move towards this outcome.

Though Harry *Wolfson and Salo *Baron had, by the 1930s, achieved scholarly eminence in Jewish studies at Harvard and Columbia, respectively, it was the ethnic studies current of the late 1960s that brought courses in Jewish studies to hundreds of American universities. The number of full-time university positions in Jewish studies had risen from 12 in 1945 to 65 in 1965, and increased even more dramatically in the ensuing decades. In addition to the availability of and mounting interest in university-level Judaic studies courses, the aftermath of the June 1967 Six-Day War saw a proliferation of and enrollment in Israel programs for high school students and collegiates.

While the "Foundation Schools" of the 1940s for students ages three through eight (combining Jewish and general education) were being supplanted by day schools, early childhood ("nursery") centers for pre-school children, which had expanded significantly during and after World War ii, continued to grow. As more women entered the work force, such programs served not only a Jewish educational function, but assumed an essential child care role. Synagogues, Jewish centers, and elementary day schools were among the primary providers of burgeoning early childhood education services.

In the 1940s, adult Jewish education began a generation of renewed growth. The Conservative Movement's National Academy for Adult Jewish Studies was established in 1940, followed in 1948 by the founding of the Department of Continuing Education of the UAHC. B'nai B'rith launched adult "Institutes of Judaism" in 1948. Another adult educational initiative destined to have a significant impact was the Brandeis Camp Institute for college-age young adults, initiated by Shlomo Bardin in 1941. In 1965, the AAJE convened the first national conference on Jewish adult education in the United States. There was ample evidence that programs of adult Jewish learning were on the rise. This was consistent with the expansion, during the 1950s and 1960s, of adult education generally, as a result of increased leisure time and an escalated level of education.

Despite the many positive trends in the Jewish educational landscape, there were some ominous signs of challenge to continuing Jewish vitality. In 1957, the U.S. Census Bureau reported the following regarding birthrates among Catholics, Protestants, and Jews: Catholics, 3.1; Protestants, 2.8; Jews, 2.1. Indeed, with the end of the post-World War ii baby boom, Jewish school enrollment declined to under 400,000 (from a peak of nearly 590,000 in 1962) by the mid-1970s. Perhaps most shocking was the dramatic rise in intermarriage. The National Jewish Population Study of 1971 reported that the rate of intermarriage had risen from under 7% in the 1950s to 31% between 1966–70.

The vision of integration articulated by Benderly, Kaplan, and generations of educators was, it was beginning to appear, less tenable than once imagined. As Jewish communal leaders increasingly spoke the language of "Jewish survival," the focus of congregational education became Jewish identity – "to make young people feel more Jewish." Adding to concern about the success potential for ensuring Jewish survival in the United States were two studies, published in 1975 and 1976, which "scientifically" demonstrated that a minimum threshold of instructional hours of Jewish schooling (3,000 according to one study and 1,000 according to the second) was required to impart adult religious identification. These thresholds exceeded the level of Jewish education received by all but a small minority of Jewish students.

Educational Trends at the Close of the 20th Century

The last quarter of the 20th century, particularly its closing decade, saw Jewish education emerge as a centerpiece of Jewish communal and philanthropic efforts to address the perceived challenges to "Jewish continuity" in the United States. During this period, Jewish day schools came to serve nearly 200,000 students from the four-year-old pre-school level through high school, participation in "Israel experience" programs by teens and collegiates was defined as a "birthright" and heavily subsidized, a Foundation for Jewish Camping sought to expand the availability of residential camping as a Jewish educational option, initiatives aimed at recruiting and training recent college graduates for service as Jewish educators were launched, programs of systematic, comprehensive adult learning were created and embraced by significant numbers of participants, and congregational change strategies aimed at nurturing communities of Jewish learning were conceived and piloted. Philanthropic foundations and individual funders with interest in Jewish life came to play an increasingly more substantial role in shaping Jewish educational projects. Evidence of intensification of Jewish learning and living was readily available, as was evidence of declining Jewish population and the diminishing Jewish involvement – at least on a communal level – of many Jews. Sociologists aptly noted that, notwithstanding the plans and prescriptions of Jewish community leaders and organizations, the story and extent of individual Jewish involvement was, increasingly, a function of the "sovereign self."

Among the educational trends of note towards the close of the 20th century were the following:

1. The growth of early childhood education programs

2. The "boom" in Jewish studies programs on college campuses and the revitalization of Hillel

3. A more "holistic" approach to Jewish education, embracing both formal and informal educational experiences

4. Family education in a variety of settings (including Jewish community centers, schools, and retreat centers)

5. The proliferation of adult study opportunities

6. The impact (albeit touching a modest percentage of the population pool) of Jewish residential camping

7. Expanded Israel trips, including Birthright Israel (a partnership between North American Jewish philanthropists, Jewish Federations, and the Israeli government to make it possible for American Jewish college students to experience Israel on organized, ten-day trips, at no charge)

8. Foundation initiatives in funding broad issues in a systemic fashion

Many of these initiatives were responses to the findings of the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey, indicating inter alia that the intermarriage rate had reached 52% (a figure challenged by some as overstating a rate which stood "only" at 43%). Even before release of the NJPS, the Commission on Jewish Education in North America, convened by respected philanthropist Mort Mandel, had issued its report, A Time to Act, giving expression to the malaise of American Jewry, and suggesting Jewish education as the antidote.

As growing numbers of school-age children of the "echo" of the post-World War ii baby boom were enrolled in private schools, including Jewish day schools, "community" (i.e., pandenominational) Jewish day schools were among the expanding educational venues. Alongside the Torah Umesorah, Solomon Schechter, and pardes School networks, there emerged networks of pluralistic day schools, representing approximately 10% of day schools and of student enrollment. Community elementary schools were organized as RAVSAK: the Jewish Community Day School Network. In 1999, the North American Association of Jewish High Schools (NAAJHS) was formed. Consisting chiefly of community day high schools, this network had more than 20 member schools within three years of its establishment. Its programs included joint student activities, in addition to collaboration among educational professionals. The American Association of Jewish Education was, in 1981, reconstituted as JESNA (Jewish Education Service of North America), and undertook to work with federations, bureaus, and school networks for the advancement of Jewish education, nationally.

With the growth of non-Orthodox day schools – and the enrollment in such schools of students whose families, in many cases, represented the element within Conservative and Reform congregations most interested in a more intensive Jewish life style – the primary focus of part-time congregational education came to be "Jewish identity" development. Consistent with this change in emphasis, and responding to member families' expressed needs, many schools sponsored by Conservative congregations modified their "traditional" 3 days /6 hours per week standard in favor of two weekly sessions.

Concern about the efficacy of congregational schooling was expressed not only by earlier research reporting on the inadequacy of instructional hours, but by a major study conducted by the Board of Jewish Education of New York in the mid-1980s. Findings of the study were released in a report titled "Jewish Supplementary Schooling; An Educational System in Need of Change." The report urged that family education and informal education became integral to supplementary education and that training and the provision of educational career opportunities be made available to attract and retain qualified personnel for the type of instruction proposed.

The 1980s and 1990s saw significant growth in family education initiatives. Early childhood Jewish education programs, in particular, were increasingly understood as portals of entry offering the possibility of Jewish educational engagement with parents and families. At the same time, there were those who argued that not only the family but the communities of families comprising congregations needed to "reimagine" themselves. In the 1990s, Joseph Reimer chronicled a model of effective, school-based Jewish education in a congregation which had apparently transformed itself into a community of learning. Isa Aron led a systematic project, "The Experiment in Congregational Education," aimed at facilitating a reconceptualization of congregational education. In Dr. Aron's vision, synagogues needed to re-engineer themselves into congregations of learners. On a parallel track, adult education frameworks such as Boston's Meah program, the Wexner Foundation Heritage program, and the Florence Melton Adult Mini-School, each serving thousands of participants over a two-year period of intensive study, aimed at effecting sociocultural transformation through Jewish learning.

An Avi Chai Foundation study of day school enrollment, released in the year 2000, showed that 80% of the 185,000 students (pre-K–4-years-old–through 12th grade) enrolled in the country's 670 day schools were in Orthodox schools; more than half of the total number of day school enrollees were in the state of New York. Hasidic and yeshivah day school enrollment – estimated at 33% in 1973 – had, a generation later, grown to nearly 50%. That the day school phenomenon, however, was not exclusively the concern of Orthodox institutional leadership was reflected in the emergence of PEJE (Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education) – a consortium of mainly other-than-Orthodox philanthropists organized to promote access to and the quality of day school education – as a prominent advocacy group in support of day school education. The end of the 20th century saw an escalating number of day high schools established, many of them "community" (non-Orthodox) schools. Within the Orthodox sector, an Association of Modern Orthodox Day Schools and Yeshiva High Schools (a mods) was established, affiliated with Yeshiva University.

The 1990s saw the emergence of "Partnership 2000," a series of "twinning" linkages between Israeli municipalities and various American Jewish Federations. Within those partnerships, educational initiatives between Israeli schools and American Jewish schools (typically, day schools) were launched. These joint ventures commonly brought faculty (and, sometimes, students) together, often around the question of the nature and meaning of Jewish peoplehood and core Jewish values. A century after Ahad Ha-Am suggested that, somehow, a critical mass of Jews constituting a majority population in the land of Israel might resolve the malaise of Judaism in the modern world, the legatees of his thinking – both in Israel and in the U.S. – were working jointly to meet the continuing, complex challenge of articulating the very meaning of Jewish identity. On both sides of these partnerships, Jewish communities aggregating 75% of world Jewry sensed the need for such definition, knowing that, in the case of Jewish education as with any other educational matter, coherent purpose is essential for effectiveness.

The 1990s saw renewed declarations regarding the importance of Hebrew language literacy. The Statement of Principles for Reform Judaism, for example, adopted at the 1999 Pittsburgh Convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, affirmed "the importance of studying Hebrew, the language of Torah and Jewish liturgy, that we may draw closer to our people's sacred texts." It remained to be seen what impact the "new" Pittsburgh Platform might have on emphases in curriculum and instruction in the educational settings of Reform Judaism. Similarly, in the mid-1990s, the chancellor of the (Conservative) Jewish Theological Seminary of America, Ismar *Schorsch, issued a pamphlet describing the seven "core" values of Conservative Judaism. Schorsch identified recognition of the importance of Hebrew as a core value of Conservative Judaism, urging that Hebrew must emerge as the unifying language of the Jewish people. Writing at a time when Conservative congregational education was, for increasing numbers of students, being restructured from three weekly sessions to two weekly contacts, it remained to be seen in which settings this sentiment might be "translated" to an action program.

By 1998, Jewish civilization was being taught or researched at over 700 American institutions of higher learning. While the 2000–1 NJPS indicated that 41% of Jewish undergraduates took at least one course in "Jewish studies" during their college years, it is important to keep in mind that the academic analysis of aspects of Jewish civilization is neither designed nor presented as an exploration which should, in any way, inform the learner's identity. A revitalized Hillel Foundation sought to meet – and, for many, to create – Jewish educational needs of an estimated 400,000 Jewish collegiates.

By the year 2000, an estimated 18,000 post-high school young men – in addition to the 150,000 students of both genders in Orthodox Jewish day schools – were enrolled in yeshivot and kolelim. Of this number, approximately 2,350 studied at the Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood and 1,500 were at the United Talmudical Seminary of the Satmar hasidim. An emerging phenomenon was the establishment of small, "activist" kolelim in cities from Boca Raton to Atlanta to Pittsburgh, Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, in which full time, deeply Orthodox talmudists devoted significant time to community education, engaging in study with non-traditionalist segments of Jewry. In addition to the growing number of kolel participants, thousands of American Jewish young men and women were studying in yeshivot and seminaries in Israel each year. Yet, even the Orthodox population was by no means impervious to acculturating tendencies. The estimates for dropouts by youth from Orthodoxy, though not from Judaism, ran as high as one-third.

The 2000–1 njps indicated that, among students ages 6 to 17 in once per week programs, 2–3 times per week, or Jewish day schools, the day school group represented a plurality of students, with 29% of school age students receiving day school education, 24% part-time (but more than once per week) Jewish education, and 25% attending once-per-week classes, during the course of their educational "career." Day school enrollment had become ubiquitous in Orthodox circles and PEJE was undertaking a series of initiatives designed to double – over the ensuing decade – day school enrollment in the non-Orthodox sector (this at a time of a shrinking po tentialstudent pool owing to the end of the "echo" of the post-World War ii baby boom). Issues such as government financial support for the education of students attending (day) schools, whether through voucher programs or funding of assorted educational services, continued to be vigorously debated within the Jewish community. The growing number of "community" (non-denominationally affiliated) day schools, combined with the emergence of two new non-denominational rabbinical schools (Academy for the Jewish Religion, California, and the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College, Newton, MA), suggested a growing strand of "post-denominational" American Judaism in the making.

The notion of Jewish education as "enculturation" gave rise, in the closing decades of the 20th century, to increased attention to "beyond the classroom" experiences engaging children and families. Influenced perhaps by public discussion and government action in the matter of providing appropriate educational services and opportunities for students with special learning needs, expanded initiatives to provide Jewish education for students with special needs were launched. Programs built on "inclusion" and self-contained models were established in schools, camps, and youth groups.

The trend towards maximizing the Jewish educational effectiveness of Jewish community centers continued at the turn of the century, as did "synagogue transformation" projects. If the Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 was a statement of late 19th-century American Jewish acculturation, the Pittsburgh Platform of 1999 reflected revitalized interest in the "whole array" of Jewish teaching. Kaplan's vision of Jewish organizations as vehicles for promoting Jewish learning and fostering Jewish consciousness was being realized in many settings.

Thus, by the end of the 20th century, trends of intensified engagement in Jewish education stood alongside diminishing numbers of Jews, and the spirit of individualism – long a distinguishing feature of the American ethos – was pervasive in Jewish life. The structures of Jewish corporate society, ruptured by modernity, never held sway on American soil. Through the first half of the 20th century, however, immigrant ties, the specter of antisemitism, and support of the emerging State of Israel had served to nurture and sustain strong communal bonds. By the latter part of the 20th century, the "sovereign self" reigned fiercely supreme. Individual "journey" had, for increasing numbers of Jews, supplanted community-centered Judaism. A growing array of Jewish educational frameworks aimed to respond to diverse needs and interests.

Challenges at the Beginning of the 21st Century

Within the many domains of Jewish educational activity, the issue of goal clarification, or educational vision, is an increasingly recognized focus. Articulating a vision (or multiple visions) of Judaism and its significance must, as generations of concerned observers have noted, be the starting point of Jewish educational activity. One significant model of building education on a "platform" of vision and clearly defined purpose was a pioneering school accreditation program developed by the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Los Angeles for Jewish day, supplementary, and early childhood education centers in the 1990s. This comprehensive program, as the Experiment in Congregational Education, called for institutional articulation of the mission and goals of each Jewish educational community as an essential starting point. Towards the same end, the Mandel Foundation, prior to and since publication of its Visions of Jewish Education (2003) – a work which "unpacks" the educational implications of alternative visions of Jewish education – has sponsored training programs aimed at encouraging more careful reflection on educational vision.

The challenge of personnel recruitment, training, and retention has been part of the "story" of Jewish education since the earliest period of American Jewish life. The Mandel Commission report of 1990 highlighted personnel as key to addressing Jewish educational challenges in every domain – early childhood through adulthood; in 2004, JESNA convened a national "Summit" focused on addressing the personnel needs of Jewish education. This heightened attention to the essential need for personnel has "translated" to a proliferation of fellowship and in-service programs, both preparing new recruits and strengthening the skills of those already in the field.

In addition to clarity of vision and the training of educational personnel, the cost of providing and accessing Jewish education is a third, critical issue, early in the 21st century. Having developed such outstanding – and costly – frameworks as day schools and residential camps, to name but two examples, the need for ensuring student access is compelling. If seats or beds, as the case may be, cost thousands or tens of thousands of dollars per child per session, what is to be the "standing" of the majority of American Jews who are unable to sustain the costs involved? The engagement of increasing numbers of private foundations in the cause of Jewish education and the example of "Birthright Israel" represent "promising prospects," but the challenge of financial access to Jewish education remains considerable. The organic inter-relationship of the above issues is clear. Attracting and retaining qualified personnel surely has cost implications. A sense of vision and mission relates to attracting personnel and funds, and will be rooted in notions of the very nature of Judaism and the purpose of Jewish education.

If American Jews are to continue to flourish and contribute to the world as Jews, intensive and extensive Jewish educational opportunity must, surely, be available and accessible. Though Jewish population is declining (because of low birthrates) and many Jews lack rudimentary Jewish education or more than an ephemeral sense of Jewish identity, the percentage and numbers of American Jews involved in serious Jewish study have never been greater. An Avi Chai report released in 2005, for example, showed that, over the five-year period 1998–99 to 2003–4, day school enrollment had increased from 185,000 students to 205,000 students.

At the start of the century, new initiatives were also underway aimed at strengthening early Jewish education and engaging parents of early childhood students in Jewish experiences. The challenges of creating, sustaining, and providing access to frameworks of meaningful Jewish educational engagement to nurture and facilitate lifelong Jewish learning and living are considerable. It is, however, the commitment and sense of urgency of those who care deeply about the advancement of Jewish education and act accordingly in each generation that ensures the vitality of Jewish life in the United States, as elsewhere.


W.I. Ackerman, "Jewish Education for What?," in: American Jewish Yearbook, 70 (1969); H.W. Bomzer, The Kolel in America (1985); A. Dushkin, Jewish Education in New York City (1918); A. Dushkin and U. Engleman, Jewish Education in the United States: Report of the Commission for the Study of Jewish Education in the United States (1959); S. Fox, I. Scheffler, and D. Marom, Visions of Jewish Education (2003); A.P. Gannes, Central Community Agencies for Jewish Education (1954); L.P. Gartner, Jewish Educationin the United States (1969); S.A. Ginsburgh, "A Study of Nationally Organized Jewish Youth Groups in America as Educational Agencies for the Preservation of the Jewish Cultural Heritage," Diss., Massachusetts State College (1940); W. Helmreich, The World of the Yeshiva (2000); O.I. Janowsky, The Jewish Community Center: Two Essays on Basic Purpose (1974); D.Z. Kramer, The Day Schools and Torah Umesorah (1984); J.B. Krasner, "Representations of Self and Other in American Jewish History and Social Studies School Books: An Exploration of the Changing Shape of American Jewish Identity," Diss., Brandeis University (2002); J. Pilch, A History of Jewish Education in the United States (1969); E.L. Rauch, The Education of Jews and the American Community: 1840 to the New Millenium (2004); J.D. Sarna, "American Jewish Education in Historical Perspective," in: Jewish Education (Winter/Spring, 1998); M. Schick, A Census of Jewish Day Schools in the United States, 20032004 (2005); A.I. Schiff, The Jewish Day School in America (1966); L. Sussman, Isaac Leeser and the Making of American Judaism (1995); J. Wertheimer, "Jewish Education in the United States: Recent Trends and Issues," in: American Jewish Year Book, 99 (1999); J. Wertheimer, "Recent Trends in American Judaism," in: American Jewish Year Book, 89 (1989); N.H. Winter, Jewish Education in a Pluralistic Society (1966); M. Zeldin, "The Promise of Historical Inquiry: 19th Century Jewish Day Schools and 20th Century Policy," in: Los Angeles (1987).

[Gil Graff (2nd ed.)]

great britain

Early Period

Jewish education was quickly reorganized after the read-mission of the Jews in the mid-17th century. The London Sephardi congregation established a boys' school, Sha'arei Tikvah ("Gates of Hope"), in 1664, where instruction was at first given in Spanish, Portuguese, and Ladino, although English was one of the secular subjects taught. A talmudical college (Beth Hamedrash Heshaim, 1664) was also sponsored by the Sephardim, and in 1730 the Villareal girls' school was founded to provide a training in Judaism, languages, and domestic science. During the 17th century, the haham of the London Sephardim had to devote several hours of his day to teaching the children of his congregants. Jewish educational standards among the British Ashkenazim were uniformly lower. Although the Great Synagogue in London established a talmud torah school in 1732, records of the mid-18th century show that the more recent Ashkenazi community had managed to organize only two small "ḥadarim" in which the language of instruction was Yiddish. An anonymous publication of the late 18th century, Sefer Giddul Banim (London, 1771), discussed contemporary teaching methods and syllabi in the spirit of the Haskalah. Despite its Hebrew title, this work was written in Yiddish and its approach reflects the critical views of English maskilim of the time.

The 19th Century

By the beginning of the 19th century, English had replaced Portuguese and Yiddish as the language of instruction in Jewish congregational schools, which were reorganized and broadened. The Sephardi "Gates of Hope" school was reconstituted in 1821 and the Villareal girls' school merged with the National and Infant Schools in 1839. Meanwhile, the Ashkenazim had overtaken the Sephardim in numbers and importance and this development was reflected in the comparatively large number of educational projects established during the first half of the century. In London, various "free schools" came into being: the Westminster Jews' Free School (1811); the (East End) Jews' Free School (1817); and the Jews' Infant Schools, founded to combat missionary activities. The Western Metropolitan Jewish School flourished during the years 1845–97 and, from the 1860s, other schools were established in the Bayswater, Borough, and Stepney districts. "Hebrew endowed schools" were also founded in the major cities of the Provinces, such as Manchester (1838), Liverpool (1840), Birmingham (1840), and Hull. By 1850, some 2,000 Jewish children attended schools of this type in Britain, representing a remarkably high proportion of the total Jewish school age population at a time when the Jews of Britain numbered no more than about 35,000.

The "free schools" did not, however, enjoy a complete monopoly of Jewish education at this period. Some children attended religion classes after spending the day at non-Jewish schools, and their educational needs were catered for by the Jewish Association for the Diffusion of Religious Knowledge (1860). Other children attended Jewish fee-paying schools run by private individuals and these were often of vastly differing educational standards. Among the best known were those of the Hebraist Hyman Hurwitz (Highgate, c. 1800), whose pupils included many who later attained eminence in Anglo-Jewry; Solomon Lyon (1754–1820), whose Jewish boarding school at Cambridge was the first of its type in Britain; the writer Grace *Aguilar (Hackney, 1842–47); and the Orientalist Louis *Loewe, who was secretary to Moses Montefiore.

Jewish educational institutes of an advanced type also came into existence during the early and mid-19th century. A chair of Hebrew was established at the non-sectarian University College of London in 1828 and attracted Jewish teachers and students; while the Jews' General Literary and Scientific Institution, inspired by the popular "mechanics institutes," was founded in 1845. Ten years later, Jews' College was established in London to train Jewish ministers and preachers. During the 1870s a Society for Hebrew Literature also flourished in London. Boys intending to enter the Jewish ministry were educated at the Jews' College Preparatory School (1855–79), a forerunner of Aria College in Brighton.

Following the Education Act of 1870, which established free primary schooling for children in Great Britain, no new Jewish "free schools" came into being and the private, fee-paying establishments suffered a sharp decline. Toward the end of the 19th century, when Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe swamped the old-established communities in London and the provinces, dozens of Yiddish-speaking ḥadarim and talmud torah schools were set up throughout the country. Though despised by many of the anglicized Jews, these provided Jewish youngsters with a far deeper basic training in Judaism. The Association for the Diffusion of Religious Knowledge was reorganized as the Jewish Religious Education Board (1893) and, by the turn of the century, the Jews' Free School in London's East End with its 3,000 pupils (2,000 boys and 1,000 girls) was the largest school in Britain and reputedly the biggest Jewish teaching center in Europe, if not in the whole world. Many of its own teachers were former pupils and it provided the staff for many other Jewish schools in Great Britain and the British Empire. However, as Israel *Zangwill observed in Children of the Ghetto (1892), the school's primary aim was to neutralize the more fiery Judaism of "alien" immigrants by the process of anglicization; and by 1901 Solomon *Schechter was already deploring the ignorance prevalent in the Anglo-Jewish community.

The 20th Century

As early as the first decade of the 20th century, the established Jewish educational organizations were feeling the pressure of the more Orthodox bodies set up by, or on behalf of, the immigrant population. The process had a synagogal parallel in the rivalry between the United Synagogue and the Federation of Synagogues in the London area, and there were similar repercussions in the major Jewish centers in the Provinces. A Talmud Torah Trust (known in later years as the London Talmud Torah Council) was founded in London in 1905; while bodies of the same type came into being in Leeds (1879) and Liverpool (1893) and in Manchester and Glasgow. The Redmans Road Talmud Torah in Stepney (1901) first introduced instruction in Hebrew on the Zionist pattern ("Ivrit be-Ivrit"), the same system being adopted by the Liverpool Hebrew Higher Grade School of Jacob Samuel *Fox. However, the overwhelming proportion of Jewish children attended state primary and secondary schools and acquired their meager knowledge of Hebrew and Judaism in "withdrawal classes" or in the religious schools administered by the various synagogue groups. Although an amalgamated Union of Hebrew and Religious Classes was founded in London (1907), there was little concerted effort to train teachers, standardize textbooks, or inspect classes in the Provinces. Those Jewish parents sufficiently interested could request the withdrawal of their children from Scripture ("Divinity") lessons and their exemption from attendance on Saturday mornings and Jewish festivals, wherever non-Jewish head teachers were agreeable. Only a small minority of youngsters enjoyed the benefit of a more intensive course of instruction.

After World War i, a fresh attempt was made to reorganize Jewish education through the "Jewish War Memorial" project, which led to the establishment of the Central Committee for Jewish Education (1920). This worked with limited success for the next two decades. More strenuous efforts were made by Zionist educators such as Jacob Koppel *Goldbloom in London's East End and Izak *Goller in Liverpool, as well as by the more strictly Orthodox Jews of London, led by Rabbi Victor (Avigdor) *Schoenfeld. In 1929, the latter established the Jewish Secondary Schools Movement, which was reinforced by Orthodox teachers and scholars from Central Europe who sought refuge in Britain during the 1930s. Other immigrants helped to fortify and improve the religion classes and standards of the Reform and Liberal movements. In the sphere of rabbinic training, Jews' College – the British Empire's only seminary from 1855 – continued to prepare ministers and a few rabbis under the direction of Adolf *Buechler; while the more recent yeshivot (talmudical colleges) founded by immigrants from Lithuania and Poland endeavored to produce "learned laymen" capable of influencing the religious direction of the community and of raising its Jewish educational sights. By 1939, there were flourishing yeshivot in London (Etz Chaim – Tree of Life College, 1903; Law of Truth Talmudical College, 1938, etc.), Manchester (1911), and Gateshead (1927), and smaller yeshivot in Liverpool (1915), Leeds, and Glasgow.

At the outbreak of World War ii, the Jewish educational picture in Great Britain showed signs of improvement. Apart from the two old-established Sephardi schools and the London and provincial "free schools" of the 19th century, there were some 3,000 pupils at the Jews' Free School, over 2,000 at the 19 institutes run by the Talmud Torah Trust, and nearly 5,000 boys and girls enrolled in the 57 classes of the Union of Hebrew and Religious Classes, with many more at talmud torahs and religion classes in the Provinces. In 1939, the Central Committee for Jewish Education merged with the Joint Emergency Committee for Jewish Religious Education in Great Britain and, led by educators such as Nathan *Morris, grappled with the urgent problem of maintaining a Jewish educational program for children and young people uprooted from their homes by wartime evacuation. A series of regular publications and correspondence courses was devised for the teaching of Hebrew, Bible, Mishnah, Jewish history, and religious subjects; and supplementary aid was provided by the *Habonim, *Bnei Akiva, and *Torah va-Avodah Zionist youth movements, all of which published material of an educational nature during the war years. The Education Act of 1944 first gave formal sanction to the withdrawal of Jewish children from state or state-aided voluntary (i.e., denominational) schools for the purpose of worship or religious instruction in accordance with parents' wishes.

Early Postwar Developments

A Communal Conference on the Reconstruction of Jewish Education in Great Britain was held in London in 1945, as a result of which two major coordinating bodies came into being: the London Board of Jewish Religious Education and the Central Council of Jewish Religious Education, which had the harder task of organizing schools and classes in Jewish communities throughout the British Isles. In London and the Provinces, the old "ḥeder" and talmud torah institutions gradually gave way to the Jewish day school system, and increasing emphasis was laid on combating ignorance, apathy, and assimilation. In this battle much inspiration was obtained from the emergence of the State of Israel, which has enlivened the Jewish calendar and added a new zest to the learning and teaching of Judaism and Jewish history as well as the Hebrew language.

During the late 1940s and the 1950s many new Jewish day schools were founded in London and the major cities, this movement gaining added impetus and encouragement after the Ministry of Education granted recognition to several such schools in 1951. Most of them provide primary education (ages 5–11) in general subjects and Jewish studies, but there are also some secondary and grammar schools which receive state aid. Progress was at first slow after the devastation of the war years and in 1953 less than 19,000 Jewish children in the Greater London area (with a total Jewish population of 285,000) received regular religious instruction, as compared with slightly more than that number in 1924, when there were only 175,000 Jews in the British capital. By 1954, there were ten Jewish schools in Britain receiving state aid and 13 others operating on a private basis. One important development was the revival of the old Jews' Free School as the JFS Comprehensive School in Camden Town, North London (1958). The postwar years also saw the growth of the Jewish Secondary Schools Movement and of two other Orthodox networks: the right-wing Yesodey Hatorah schools (1943) and the Lubavitch Foundation (1959). A few schools were also sponsored by the British Mizrachi Federation in conjunction with the Jewish Agency Torah Department (North-West London, Dublin) and many more in London and the Provinces by the British Zionist Federation. Schools of the Zionist type run in conjunction with the London Board or local Jewish education authorities were founded in the London suburbs of Clapton (1956), Willesden (1945, 1947), Hampstead Garden Suburb, Golders Green (1959), Edgware (1956), and Ilford (1970), and older schools refounded in Bayswater and Stepney. The same trend was maintained in the Provinces with Jewish primary schools in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Southend, Sunderland, and in Dublin and Glasgow.

The rate of educational progress may be gauged from the fact that, while only a little more than 4,000 Jewish children attended day schools in 1953, nearly 9,000 were enrolled in schools of this type by 1963. In 1961, it was estimated that 13% (approximately 8,000 children) out of the total Jewish school population attended 18 kindergartens, 23 primary, and 9 secondary schools under various Jewish auspices in Great Britain (of which 16 were state-aided); while 22,000 Jewish youngsters were enrolled in "withdrawal classes," "ḥadarim" and talmud torah and synagogue schools throughout the country. Nevertheless, only a little over half of the Jewish population of school age received regular Jewish education. Attendance in the day schools compared with the national average, whereas boys enrolled in synagogue and similar classes tended to abandon their Jewish studies after the critical age of 13, when they had reached their bar mitzvah. The same was true of girls once they reached their early teens. By 1970 there were 50 Jewish day schools in Great Britain (a little over half of them in the London area), with about 10,000 pupils in all, including 4,000 in the Provinces.

Secondary and Higher Education

During the 1950s and 1960s there was a gradual, but significant, increase in the number of Jewish youngsters in full-time attendance at Jewish secondary and grammar schools. In the Provinces, the two principal mixed grammar schools were both in Lancashire – the Liverpool King David School (part of a local network with a total enrollment of 700, not all of whom were, however, Jewish children) and the Manchester King David High School, which also had associated infants' and junior schools. The Glasgow Hebrew College taught youngsters over the age of 13. There were also a number of voluntary schools in Manchester, where about half the Provincial day schools were concentrated, including the Manchester Jewish Grammar School (Boys) and the Manchester Jewish High School for Girls. The most novel experiment in Jewish education of the postwar years was Carmel College at Wallingford, near Oxford, founded by Rabbi Kopul Rosen in 1948. This was a highly successful Jewish "public school" combining a high level of secular and traditional Jewish studies. It appealed to parents frustrated by the public school "quota" system operating against Jewish boys, but also attracted students from abroad. Whittingehame College in Sussex, run on a Zionist pattern, was, unlike Carmel College, based on a secular program, which may account for the lack of public support which led to its closure in the late 1960s.

The Jewish institutions of higher learning were headed by Jews' College which, under the direction of Isidore *Epstein, was reorganized from 1958 as a seminary for the training of rabbis, ministers, and cantors, with an associated teachers' institute. The Judith Lady Montefiore College (1869) in Ramsgate was reestablished in 1952 as the result of an agreement between the London Sephardim and the Jewish Agency Torah Department to train teachers and cantors mainly recruited from North Africa. In 1960 the college was transferred to London. Leo Baeck College (1956), a Reform foundation, was later reorganized in conjunction with the Liberal and Progressive movement to train non-Orthodox rabbis and teachers. By 1967, there were a dozen yeshivot in Great Britain with a total enrollment of some 400 full-time students – about four times as many as those attending the two London seminaries. Four of the yeshivot (Etz Chaim, Law of Truth, Horomo, and Chaye Olam) were in the Greater London area; and there were three major yeshivot in Gateshead, Manchester, and Sunderland, each of which had an associated kolel (institute for higher rabbinic studies). Gateshead, an island of strict Orthodoxy, had a yeshivah population of 160 in 1962 and also housed two Jewish schools. There were smaller yeshivot in Ilford, Leeds, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Advanced Hebrew studies were also pursued by degree students at the universities of London, Leeds, Manchester, and Oxford, and at Dublin and Glasgow.

Jewish education was promoted in Great Britain by various communal and other bodies, including the National Union of Hebrew Teachers (1945), which fought a long campaign to raise the status and remuneration of the Jewish teacher; the B'nai B'rith Hillel Foundation (1953); the Inter-University Jewish Federation (1919); the Central Council's Jewish Youth Study Groups (1946); and Ḥovevey Torah (1951), a voluntary organization of young adults conducting a weekly program of advanced Torah study in London. Other important educational bodies included the Society for Jewish Study (1946), whose members ranged from the Orthodox to the Liberal; the Jewish Book Council (1949), which organized an annual Book Week of lectures and exhibitions in London; and the Institute of Jewish Studies (1953), established in Manchester by R. Alexander *Altmann and later transferred to University College, London. One notably successful educational scheme was the Hebrew Seminar movement initiated by Levi Gertner, director of the Jewish Agency Education Department, which drew hundreds of participants to its weekend and vacation courses in the countryside and abroad.

Hebrew Teaching

The cost of maintaining the fabric of Jewish education in Great Britain is borne by the most committed, and derives from communal taxation, voluntary donations, Zionist grants, kashrut supervision fees, and synagogue seat rentals. Additional sums are obtained from fees paid by a minority of parents, and a proportion of the budget is also paid by the state.

In order to improve the general standard of Hebrew teaching, salaries were increased (this was not necessary in state-recognized schools) and a number of teachers' training colleges established. These included the Teachers' Institute attached to Jews' College, whose students sat for degree and diploma examinations; an evening institute run by the London Board; the Lady Judith Montefiore College; the Salford Training College in Manchester; and two women's colleges administered by the Beth Jacob movement in London and Gateshead. In most, if not all, of these the minimum training period was three years; and in 1960 there were close to 250 men and women enrolled. There were active Jewish education boards in Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, and Sheffield, and a communal education officer in Birmingham.

Subsequent Developments

While estimates of the Jewish child population (and of those receiving part-time Jewish education) fell with the decline of the general child population in Britain, the number enrolled in Jewish day schools reached some 13,000 at the end of the 1970s, representing over 20% of the estimated Jewish child population. New Jewish day schools continued to be founded and there were positive developments in Jewish adult education in various aspects involving synagogues of different religious affiliation, the Lubavitch movement, and courses for younger Jewish leaders. Enrollment continued to rise through the 1980s and 1990s reaching 30% in 1992 and 51% in 1999. The United Synagogue Agency for Jewish Education operated 14 primary and nursery schools and five secondary schools in the early 2000s and had trained over 150 teachers since 1997. The Leo Baeck College Center for Jewish Education offered an M.A. program in Jewish education from 2002.


Z. Scharfstein, in: The Jewish People, 2 (1948), 178–88; V.D. Lipman (ed.), Three Centuries of Anglo-Jewish History (1961), 53–54, 85–89, 179–80; I. Fishman and H. Levy, in: J. Gould and S. Esh (eds.), Jewish Life in Modern Britain (1964), 67–85; S. Stein, in: Remember the Days. Essays … Cecil Roth (1966), 145–79; L. Gertner and B. Steinberg, in: Jewish Education, 38:1 (1968), 34–45; A. Eisenberg (ed.), World Census on Jewish Education (1968), 95–97; I. Mehlman, HaḤinnukh ha-Yehudi ba-Golah (1969), 46–55.;


In 1968 there were 40 school units of which 12 were day schools with an enrollment of 3,580 and 28 supplementary schools with a total registration of 3,335. The programs of allday schools included secular subjects as prescribed by State authorities. In most of these schools 12 hours per week were allocated for Jewish study of traditional subjects, including modern Hebrew. These schools served children from grades 1 to 6 (ages 5–13 primary) and grades 7 to 12 (ages 14–17 secondary). The percentages of pupils on the secondary level were satisfactory (about 690 out of the total 3,580).

In the supplementary schools or part-time schools, based on a six-year program, the children attended four days a week as well as once-a-week classes. The educational program of the supplementary schools conducted by synagogues varied with the type of sponsorship. The Orthodox placed more stress ontraditional subjects (prayers, Bible, customs, and Hebrew), the classes conducted by the Zionist Council emphasized the study of Hebrew, the liberal synagogue-schools, especially in the one-day-a-week classes, employed the vernacular in all teaching, and the Yiddish schools taught almost exclusively Yiddish language and literature and some Hebrew for bar mitzvah purposes. In addition to children receiving an education in the Jewish schools, there were in 1968 about 3,700 pupils in the religious instruction classes of the government schools. Since the education departments in all states of Australia permit denominational teachers to conduct weekly lessons, the Jews made full use of this opportunity. Thus a total of approximately 10,600 children received a Jewish education: a little more than a third having had a maximum program, and about two-thirds a minimal education. Most schools lacked adequate text materials and instructional aids. Most textbooks were imported from England, the U.S.A., and Israel.

The teacher situation was very grave in the 1960s. There was a shortage of competent, qualified teachers. In 1968 the day schools employed Israeli teachers; they constituted 35% of the instructional staff. Of the teachers of general subjects in the Jewish day schools more than 50% were non-Jewish.

The schools in each state were affiliated with its State Board of Jewish Education, a community representative body headed by competent educational leadership. In addition, there was in the 1960s an Orthodox United Education Board and a Board for the Schools of the Liberal Congregations. Hebrew classes were also conducted under Zionist auspices. All schools received regular supervisory services by educators engaged by the central educational agencies. In 1968 the Jewish education budget for all Australia was 1,700,000 Australian dollars.

[Judah Pilch]

Several full-time Jewish day schools were founded in the subsequent decades, bringing the total up to 18 in the early 1990s: nine in Melbourne, six in Sydney, and one each in Perth, Adelaide, and Brisbane. These represented the various streams in Australian Jewish life, with three schools in Melbourne, for instance, representing strict Orthodoxy, and the other schools associated with the Mizrachi movement, mainstream Orthodoxy, and with the Progressive movements, with secular Yiddish culture, and with secular Zionism. Enrollments continued to climb at these schools through the 1980s and into the 1990s. In Melbourne, they rose from 4,840 at all schools in 1982 to 5,492 in 1989, and about 6,000 in 1992. In Sydney, the rise was even more spectacular, from 1,594 in 1982 to 3,041 in 1988. During the severe recession of the early 1990s, doubts were widely expressed about the continued viability of several Jewish schools, all of which were fee-paying although they each received some state government assistance. Nevertheless, though their rate of growth fell off, absolute numbers continued to increase, with especially strong growth in the Strictly Orthodox schools, and enrollments at Jewish day schools in Australia probably represented a higher percentage of the local Jewish community than in any other significant Diaspora community, with over 50 percent of Jewish school-age children attending one or another school. Indeed, Australia's Jewish-day-school system has been termed "the jewel in the crown" of Australian Jewish life, with Melbourne's Mount Scopus College, with 2,700 students, long claiming to be the largest Jewish day school in the world. Growth, though slight, continued into the 2000s despite the fact that tuition had become prohibitive for many Jewish families, who were increasingly sending their children to state schools.

Advances were made in this period in tertiary Jewish education, long an area of neglect, especially in comparison with the well-developed day school movement. By 1992, the University of Sydney and three universities in Victoria – Melbourne, Monash, and Deakin – were offering or actively planning Jewish studies programs, a notable advance on the situation a decade before. Lecturers in Modern Jewish History were appointed at Melbourne and Monash universities in, respectively, 1988 and 1992. An Australian Association for Jewish Studies was established in 1987 and held annual conferences since then; hundreds of scholarly papers, representing all facets of Jewish studies, were presented. Several Orthodox kolelim also existed.


U.Z. Engelman, Jewish Education in the Diaspora (1962), index; A. Eisenberg (ed.), World Census of Jewish Education (1968); P.Y. Medding, From Assimilation to Group Survival (1968), index.


Jewish education in Canada began as formal schooling, using models that were familiar to the early immigrants arriving from Europe. These modes of instruction were slowly adapted to public school models that were developing at the same time in late 19th-century and early 20th-century Canada. What began, then, as ḥadarim in private homes soon became classrooms in a synagogue, and then, later on, modern school buildings. Early schooling was supplemental to the public system, in the afternoons and on Sundays, but day schools eventually became the dominant system. In the large communities of present-day Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, and Vancouver day school students outnumber supplementary school students, a phenomenon which distinguishes Canadian communities from those in the United States.

This distinguishing characteristic is due, in part, to the fact that early in the history of Canadian public schooling, religion separated different school systems. This remains the case in certain provinces. As a result, Jewish day schools are government-assisted in some provinces, the great exception being Ontario, with the largest Jewish population. Many attempts have been made to right this injustice in the Ontario system where Catholic schools receive full funding, and for a brief period a tax credit did exist in the early years of the 21st century.

There are a number of modes of Jewish education currently operating in Canada. These include full day schools and supplementary congregational or independent schools; Jewish pre-schools linked to day schools, JCC's, or associated to congregational or independent supplementary schools; educational programs organized by denominational, community, or Zionist-based youth groups; educational programs at denominational, community, Zionist, or private summer camps; adult educational programs offered by congregations and community organizations as well as Jewish teacher training programs and Jewish studies courses and programs available through different Canadian universities. With the exception of a few secular schools, youth groups, and camps, almost all Jewish education in Canada is religious education and is divided by denominations: Ḥasidic, Ḥaredi, Modern Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, and Ḥavura communities. Of course, university-based Jewish studies are conducted in the secular settings of Canada's largest academic institutions.

Day schools across Canada offer the typical full day of studies with varying proportions of general studies vis-à-vis Jewish studies, based on the ideology of the school. A typical Ultra-Orthodox school might have a morning and early afternoon of intensive holy studies followed by a late afternoon period of general studies. Another denomination will emphasize high-quality general studies for two-thirds of the day and a Jewish studies curriculum for the remaining third. Most day schools teach both textual and modern Israeli Hebrew, while some teach Yiddish for varied ideological reasons. Jewish curricular content and emphases are determined by the ideology of each particular school.

Pedagogical methodology is also case-specific to each school. The approaches range from rote recitation of texts to Montessori, multiple intelligence instruction, and arts-based techniques.

Supplementary schools are even more varied in their content and form. They range from volunteer-taught Sunday or Sabbath schools to three-day-a-week institutions with full-time directors and professional teachers. There are schools linked to synagogues and temples, community schools, Orthodox kiruv schools for non-Orthodox children, and for-profit commercial establishments. In Canada, supplementary schools account for the minority of children in Jewish schooling, but have demonstrated great potential for outreach to peripheral and marginal Jewish families.

Youth groups and summer camps are divided by religious denominations or Zionist movements, with some community-wide groupings. BBYO, Beitar, Bnei Akiva, Habonim-Dror, Hashomer Hatzair, nfty, ncsy, Tzofim, USY, and Young Judea all have chapters and groups in various communities across Canada. Zionist camps, community camps, denominational camps, and private camps are active near most of the larger communities.

Teacher education has a unique character in Canada due to two university-based programs at McGill University in Montreal and at York University in Toronto, respectively. The McGill program was established in 1973, with York opening its version soon after in 1977. These are Jewish teacher training programs based on an undergraduate degree and a teaching diploma, using faculties of general education and Jewish studies programs in both institutions. York University has an agreement with western Canadian communities to train teachers for the schools of the western provinces. Other teacher training takes place either in pre-service seminaries of Ultra-Orthodox systems or in in-service professional development offered by central agencies such as Toronto's Board of Jewish Education or Montreal's Bronfman Jewish Education Centre.

Aside from teacher training, which is professionally oriented, there are multiple modes of adult education sponsored by a variety of synagogues, temples, service organizations, and community federations. They range from kolelim in the Orthodox community, sporadic lectures in a JCC, home study groups, on-line courses, synagogue shiurim, Daf Yomi classes, to the kolel in Toronto's liberal community.

It should be noted that although several provinces provide partial funding for day schools, all other Jewish educational activities are funded by users, voluntary organizations, and federated communities. In two such federated communities, Montreal and Toronto, there are central agencies for Jewish education, which provide a variety of services to Jewish schools, youth groups, camps, and Israel experiences such as the March of the Living and Birthright for Israel. In Toronto, where there is no provincial aid to day schools, the UJA Federation's Board of Jewish Education grants millions of dollars annually to subsidize day school tuition for parents in need. Over 200,000,000 Canadian dollars are spent annually on all aspects of Jewish education across Canada.

Data from the 2001 Canadian census, coupled with statistics provided by Jewish schools across the country, provide us with a snapshot of the status of Jewish education in Canada.

Of the 61,000 school-age children (those between the ages of 6 and 17) in Canada, 87% lived in the six largest Jewish communities, communities with more than 7,000 Jews. A review of enrollment in day elementary, day high school, and supplementary schools demonstrates the following: In 2001, of the 53,300 children aged 6–17 in the six largest Jewish communities, 25,446 children or 48% were receiving some form of Jewish education. In 2001, of the 34,215 Jewish students aged 6–13 in these communities, 13,767 or 40% attended day elementary schools; by comparison, in 1970, 30% of Jewish students aged 6–13 in all Jewish communities with more than 25 families attended day elementary schools. In 2001, of the 19,085 Jewish students aged 14–17 in the six largest Jewish communities, 4,889 or 26% attended day high schools; by comparison, in 1970, only 10–14% of Jewish students aged 14–17 attended day high schools, so there clearly has been a marked increase in high school attendance. In 2001, of the 53,300 children aged 6–17 who might have enrolled in supplementary schools, 6,790 or 13% were in attendance.

An examination of the figures for individual communities reveals that enrollment statistics vary widely:

Total Jewish population (2001 Census)Student population ages 6–17 (2001 Census)Total enrollment in Jewish educationTotal % enrolled in Jewish education

In Calgary, Ottawa, and Vancouver, approximately 30% of the children aged 6–13 were enrolled in Jewish schools, with 5–7% of the students continuing through high school and 6–14% attending supplementary school programs.

Winnipeg's Jewish elementary day schools also service close to 30% of children ages 6–13. However, the situation in Winnipeg is somewhat different. In addition to those students enrolled in Jewish schools, a significant number were enrolled in Hebrew bilingual programs at two public schools, where they study Hebrew language, culture, holidays, etc. In total, then, some 48% of students ages 6–13 were enrolled in Jewish programs. Another difference: in Winnipeg, 20% of students ages 14–17 were enrolled in Jewish high schools. A very small percent attended supplementary school programs.

Montreal and Toronto, with the largest Jewish populations, attracted a larger percentage of the students than the smaller communities. Montreal had the highest percentage of enrollment, with 55% attending elementary schools and 46% attending high schools. Supplementary schools in Montreal attracted some 5% of students ages 6–17. Toronto had 36% of 6–13-year-olds in elementary day school and 21% of 14–17-year-olds in high schools. Toronto had the highest percent of students in supplementary school settings – 17% of 6–17-year-olds. (School population data provided by Federations and schools.)


B.G. Sack, History of the Jews in Canada (1965); United Jewish Welfare Fund of Toronto, Study on Jewish Education (1975); J. Kutnick, "Jewish Education in Canada," in: H.S. Himmelfarb and S. DellaPergola (eds.), Jewish Education Worldwide Cross-Cultural Perspectives (1989); H.M. Waller, "Canada," in: American Jewish Year Book, 103 (2003); Statistics Canada, 2001 Census, special order tabulations for UIA Federations Canada (2003).

[Joyce Levine and

Seymour Epstein (2nd ed.)]

south africa

The outstanding feature of South Africa Jewish education is the predominance of all-day schools over supplementary classes. This is a development that followed World War ii. Whereas in 1948 there were only seven pupils in a pioneering day school, in 1968 there were 17 schools with an enrollment in elementary and high school departments of a total of 5,632 pupils. The early post-World War ii supplementary schools consisted of several types: one hour daily, five days a week in the morning prior to classes, on public school premises, for secondary school pupils; one hour each day, or two hours twice a week in the afternoon, meeting mostly in Orthodox congregational buildings. These classes had a total enrollment in 1968 of 4,275 pupils. In Johannesburg and its environs the afternoon Hebrew schools, or talmud torahs, were organized in a regional body called the United Hebrew Schools. Apart from these Orthodox part-time classes, the Reform congregations under the aegis of the South African Union of Progressive Judaism also maintained such Hebrew schools with a total enrollment of about 1,300 pupils. Finally, 3,406 children studied in 1968 in 53 Jewish nursery schools established and maintained by various women's groups. In 1967 Johannesburg had an Orthodox Yeshiva College and a Folkshule where instruction was given in Yiddish.

All these schools, except the Reform, were administered by two separate bodies, the South African Board of Jewish Education based in Johannesburg, and the Cape Board of Jewish Education in Cape Town. This division of labor was due to the distance between the two cities. The South African Board provided various services to scattered small settlements of Jews in rural areas, such as visiting teachers, correspondence courses, syllabi, and supervisory visits.

The South African Jewish community provided especially lavish support for its ever expanding system of day schools. All these schools were accommodated in magnificent, modern structures, usually surrounded by spacious sports fields. Expenditures were covered by tuition fees, fundraising campaigns, grants by Jewish communal organizations, and by private bequests, trust funds, and endowments. To accommodate pupils from outlying country districts, hostels, or dormitories, were provided. In 1968 more than 100 pupils were housed in such hostels of the King David schools in Johannesburg. The hostel of the Herzlia school in Cape Town was also quickly filled with over 50 out-of-town boarders. Sustained living in a richly Jewish atmosphere, especially on the Sabbath, provided a lasting influence on the character of students in these hostels. A further salutary effect upon the development of student Jewish consciousness was afforded by an ulpan scheme whereby groups of secondary school pupils from day schools spent annually over three months in Israel, learning Hebrew and touring the country.

Crowning the Jewish educational system was the Rabbi Judah Leib Zlotnik Seminary in Johannesburg for the training of Hebrew teachers. From the year of its foundation in 1944 to 1968 it produced more than 100 graduates. These teachers served not only the day schools but also the widespread country communities. Every graduate was sent for a year's further study in Jerusalem. The seminary did not meet the demand for teachers. A number of students, mainly women, took courses in Hebrew at the universities of Witwatersrand and Cape Town. Bursaries (stipends) were provided for by the community for those who studied for teaching. The severe shortage of Hebrew teachers was partly filled by arrivals from Israel. In addition to the formal schooling the community provided informal cultural activities, as well as sports and recreational facilities for both youth and adults.

[Isaac Levitats]

In 2003, over 80% of school-going Jewish children in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Port Elizabeth (whose Theodor Herzl school by then had a mainly non-Jewish enrollment) were attending one of the Jewish day schools. The total pupil enrollment in the day schools was about 8,000, substantially more than the 1970 figure of nearly 6,000 even though the overall Jewish community declined by more than a third. Those still in government schools had their Jewish educational requirements catered to by the United Hebrew Schools (under the sabje) in Johannesburg and the Religious Instruction Department of the SAJBD in Cape Town. Jewish pupils in Pretoria and Durban received Jewish education through a special department at the Crawford College branches. This arrangement came about following the takeover of the Carmel College Jewish day schools in those cities by Crawford during the 1990s.

The mainstream schools in Johannesburg were the three King David schools, located in Linksfield, Victory Park, and Sandton. The first two provided Jewish education from pre-school to matriculation level while the third went up to primary school level. King David's counterparts in Cape Town were the Herzlia schools.

The ideological basis of the King David, Herzlia, and Theodor Herzl schools was officially described as "broadly national traditional," a formula intended to indicate both the religious and the Zionist character of the education. Pupils received a full education following a state syllabus and a Jewish studies program, including religion, history, literature, and Hebrew language. However, many demanded more intensive religious instruction and greater religious observance. Thus Johannesburg's Yeshiva College developed into a full-time day school from nursery school up to matriculation and steadily grew from an initial few dozen pupils to well over 800 by the turn of the century. In 1995, the school received the Jerusalem Prize for Jewish Education in the Diaspora. Yeshiva College could be regarded as centrist Orthodox in its approach. More right-wing Orthodox schools that subsequently were established included Torah Academy and Cape Town's Hebrew Academy (both under Chabad's auspices), Yeshivas Toras Emes, Shaarei Torah, Bais Yaakov, Hirsch Lyons, and Yeshiva Maharsha.

The Progressive movement also maintained a network of supplementary Hebrew and religious classes at its temples. These schools are affiliated with the Union for Progressive Jewish Education.

At the tertiary level, university students were able to take Jewish studies through the Semitics Department of the University of South Africa (unisa); the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies of Natal University; and the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies (including the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research) at the University of Cape Town. Programs of adult education continued to be provided by the South African Board of Jewish Education, the South African Zionist Federation, and the various affiliates, including most particularly the Union of Jewish Women, the Women's Zionist Council, and the South African Zionist Youth Council.

[David Saks (2nd ed.)]


B. Steinberg, in: Jewish Education, 39 (1969), 14–22; A. Eisenberg (ed.), World Census on Jewish Education (1968).


Jewish education was sponsored and supervised by the Central Board of Education, an affiliate of the Va'ad ha-Kehillot. This Board represented a consolidation in 1956–57 of two formerly independent educational boards, one for Buenos Aires, the other for the provinces. It included the Agudah-oriented Heikhal ha-Torah school with 500 students in 1970. Only the Yieuf (Peoples Democrats, Communist) schools with some 2,000 students remained out of this national Jewish school network. In the past the Argentine Jewish educational system consisted of supplementary schools. The first day school was opened in Buenos Aires in 1948; it took a long time for these schools to spread. Supplementary education was facilitated by the fact that the public schools meet on a four-hour two-shift basis. This enabled Jewish children to attend either morning or afternoon Jewish classes. The predominant element in the program was national rather than religious. Yiddish was given preference over Hebrew, although both languages were taught. Each of the many ideological groupings had its own program of instruction. In the 1960s these curricula began to coalesce and to gravitate toward more traditional and broadly national common elements. There were many inherent weaknesses in the system. As late as 1965 it was pointed out that only 17% of the Jewish school age population was enrolled in Jewish schools. Of those who did attend the first grade in Buenos Aires in 1960 only 4.2% stayed until the sixth grade. Small schools predominated; most buildings were inadequate. European-trained teachers were gradually replaced by native-born, most of them female and inadequately prepared for teaching. Since schools were often initiated and administered teaching by lay individuals, supervision left much to be desired. The general apathy of parents and the assimilatory factors in the community resulted in cultural deprivation of the children.

In the late 1960s there was a turn for the better. Many school buildings were modern, airy, and roomy. The well-organized community supplied a considerable proportion of the school budgets for operational and capital expenditures and strove toward a general upgrading of curriculum and supervision. There were four types of schools: purely Hebraic, Yiddish–Hebrew, Hebrew–Yiddish, and religious. Israel was a most important element of the course of study.

In addition to in-service training courses for teachers there were a number of teachers' seminaries. The oldest among them was the Midrashah, or Seminario Docente para Escuelas Israelitas, established in 1940. In the course of the first 25 years it enrolled some 3,000 students; 900 teachers were graduated. Close to 70% of the teachers in Buenos Aires and neighboring schools were graduates of Midrashah, recognized for the higher Jewish learning it offered, and the requirement was that high school teachers must be graduates of that school. In 1966 it had 350 students enrolled. The Moisesville Teachers Seminary trained many of the teachers for the interior of the country. In 1949 it graduated its first class of ten primary and kindergarten teachers. In 1966 it had 120 resident and 85 local students. Ninety-nine percent of the teachers were native-born. Many spent a year in Israel. In 1964–69, 281 Buenos Aires graduates of teacher training schools enjoyed such an experience. Special courses were offered also for administrative personnel.

In addition to opportunities for formal schooling Argentina offered many informal programs. Thousands of students attended summer day and sleep-away camps. Evening courses for adults were offered at the spacious community center named Hebraica in Buenos Aires. Sports activities were popular among the recreational facilities which provided a means of identification with the Jewish group. Widely ramified communal and Zionist efforts further enhanced such identification. These positive factors were outweighed by the large sectors of the unaffiliated, the unschooled, and those bent on the road to assimilation.

[Isaac Levitats]

The institution of a longer school day in Argentina's public educational system in the late 1960s worked a revolution in Jewish education. With no time left for complementary education Jewish schools were transformed into day schools offering both a general and a Jewish curriculum. To keep their students the general curriculum was upgraded, often at the expense of Jewish studies, but the strategy succeeded. A survey carried out in 1997 found that nearly half of all Jewish children aged 13–17 and two-thirds of children aged 6–12 attended Jewish day schools. A total of 19,248 students attended classes in 56 kindergartens, 52 elementary schools, and 29 high schools.

By 2002, however, the numbers had dropped to just 14,700 students in 40 elementary schools and 22 high schools. The difference was the natural result of low birthrate, assimilation, and emigration. The high tuition rates in these private schools were also a deterrent under Argentina's grim economic conditions, even though local Jewish institutions, the Jewish Agency, and Israel's Ministry of Education, together with the Joint Distribution Committee and World Jewish Congress, established financial aid programs.

To reach Jewish youngsters not in day schools, the community, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency, established a supplementary program called Lomdim for secondary level (with about 1,200 students in 2004) with classes two or three days (6–9 hours) a week. A second supplementary program, for elementary-school children, called Chalomot, with 4–12 hours a week had approximately 600 children. Chabad developed a similar strategy, offering children attending public school an enriched after-school program in computers, English, and other subjects, together with Jewish studies.

There were also no teacher training institutions in Argentina after Michlelet Shazar was closed in the late 1990s. The only institutions of higher Jewish studies were Orthodox yeshivot and the Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano of Conservative orientation, in which there was also a section for non-rabbinic studies.

[Efraim Zadoff (2nd ed.)]


I. Janasowicz (ed.), Pinkas fun der Kehilla in Buenos Aires 196368 (1969); U.Z. Engelman, Jewish Education in the Diaspora (1962), 64–71; Z. Sohar, Ha-Ḥinnukh ba-Tefuẓot (1953), 155–67.


On the assumption that the children of elementary and secondary school age constitutes 20 percent of the Jewish population in most countries, there should have been a Jewish school enrollment in Brazil of 28,000. Actually only a little more than 10,000 pupils attended the Jewish schools of Brazil in the late 1960s. The number of schools supervised by the central office for education consisted of kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools, a yeshivah, a college, a seminar, and a teacher training institute. Altogether 10,409 students attended these 33 schools.

The Jewish educational system combined both Jewish and general studies in the same school. The Jewish program included the study of both Hebrew and Yiddish. In schools where Jewish studies were taught two or three hours a day, there was still the possibility of teaching both languages; many of the schools, however, allowed only 40–50 minutes a day for Jewish studies, making the study of two languages in those schools to all intents and purposes impossible. The 20 Jewish day schools in the country had small enrollments, and thus had difficulties in grading the children adequately, in providing an adequate staff, and in financing. Among the Jewish teachers in Brazil there still were a number of teachers who came from abroad equipped with pedagogic skill, Jewish knowledge, experience, and deep commitment to Jewish education. But the number of those teachers was gradually diminishing. To meet in some manner the pressing need for classroom teachers, the community organized seminars for teachers in Rio and Sao Paulo, which in reality were secondary schools, applicants entering upon completion of the primary school. The Sao Paulo seminar, founded in 1950, had an enrollment of 84 students in 1968. A considerable number of the teachers were Israelis. In addition to maintaining the teacher training school, the Council of Education and Culture conducted periodically, especially during the summer, in-service teacher training programs for kindergarten and grade teachers. During the winter, the Council also conducted special courses for teachers in Bible, Jewish history, Hebrew literature, and educational psychology. In the early 21st century the Sao Paulo community had four Orthodox and four traditional schools, with 3,000 students at the Educacio Hebraico Brasileiro Renscenca. There were several Jewish schools in Rio de Janeiro, including the 500-student Bar-Ilan School, which also had a kosher dining room and a synagogue.


The enrollment in Montevideo's 11 Jewish schools (seven of them day schools) was about 3,000 in 1968. Most of the schools offered elementary Jewish education, beginning with kindergarten. With the exception of the Sholem Aleichem school, Hebrew had replaced Yiddish in all schools. Many of the teachers and principals were Israelis or had studied in Israel. All the schools were affiliated with the Board of Education of the Montevideo kehillah, which acts as a central coordinating supervisory community agency for Jewish education. In the early 21st century there were four Jewish schools in all of Uruguay, with studies both in Spanish and Hebrew. A comprehensive school was the largest, going from pre-school through high school. The Chabad Center also ran a comprehensive school. About a third of the country's Jewish children attended these schools.


U.Z. Engelman, Jewish Education in the Diaspora (1962), index; A. Eisenberg (ed.), World Census on Jewish Education (1968); A. Spolinsky, in: Bi-Tefuẓot ha-Golah (1964), 45–55.

[Judah Pilch]


After World War i large numbers of Jews from Eastern Europe and their families came to Mexico with the intention of staying temporarily while waiting for visas to the U.S.A. American immigration laws did not relax and they lost hope and decided then to make Mexico their permanent home. The married couples began to worry about the education of their children. Fortunately for Jewish education in Mexico there were among the immigrants a few young men with a good Jewish background who could not adapt themselves to the hard and humiliating occupation of peddling and consequently took upon themselves the organization of a school for Jewish children. The desire of the parents was to open a day school authorized by the Mexican Board of Education in accordance with the programs of the Mexican government schools, but with a substantial part of the schedule to be devoted to Jewish studies. Thus in 1924 an all-day Jewish school with 24 students was established in Mexico City.

By 1969, 45 years later, it had developed to nine all-day schools with a population of approximately 5,000 boys and girls between the ages of 3–18 in spacious modern buildings with up-to-date equipment, libraries, laboratories, workshops, and assembly halls. It has been claimed that as many as 90% of Jewish children in Mexico attended these Jewish schools, and still did at the outset of the 21st century in a country where the intermarriage rate is just 10 percent. In Mexico City there were at least a dozen Jewish schools in 2005. The schools in existence in 1969 were (1) Colegio Israelita de Mexico – from kindergarten to college with about 1,500 students; (2) Colegio Yavne – from kindergarten to college with about 700 students; (3) Colegio Tarbut – from kindergarten to college with about 1,000 students; (4) I.L. Peretz school – from kindergarten to high school with about 400 students; (5) Colegio Tarbut Sephardi – from kindergarten to college with about 800 students; (6) Colegio Monte Sinai – from kindergarten to college with about 700 students; (7) Yeshivah de Mexico – from kindergarten to high school with about 100 students; (8) Colegio Israelita de Monterrey – from kindergarten to high school with about 80 students; (9) Colegio Israelita de Guadalajara – from kindergarten to sixth grade elementary school with about 50 students; (10) The Yiddish-Hebrew Teachers Seminary in Mexico City – with about 70 students.

In all the schools the Jewish subjects were compulsory. The majority of them did not admit students in the higher grades without a proper preparation in Yiddish or Hebrew or both. Some schools were more lenient and special groups for Jewish studies were formed to prepare the newcomers for their respective classes.

In Colegio Israelita de Mexico, Colegio Yavne, I.L. Peretz school, and in the Yeshivah de Mexico, Yiddish and Hebrew were compulsory. In all the other schools only Hebrew was taught. Three hours daily were devoted to the Jewish subjects up to high school and two hours in high school and college. In the schools where both languages were taken the time was divided equally between Yiddish and Hebrew.

All the schools were authorized by and incorporated with the Board of Education of Mexico. The colleges were under the jurisdiction of the autonomous University of Mexico. In the colleges, after successful completion of the curriculum, the students were granted the degrees of B.A. or B.S. which entitled them to be admitted to the professional schools at the university without any additional examinations.

The Jewish subjects were Yiddish language and literature, Hebrew language and literature, Jewish history, Bible, and geography of Israel. The State of Israel occupied a very prominent place in the curriculum. In the higher grades study about Israel was included and in the lower grades starting from kindergarten the teachers made use of all available material to develop in the children a sense of national identity and common fate with the people and State of Israel.

Mexican Jewry has continued to be a tight-knit mostly Orthodox community into the 21st century, enfolding its young in a comprehensive educational system that ensures a strong Jewish identity.

[Bezalel Shachar]

north africa

Modern Jewish education in North Africa started with the opening of the first Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) School in *Tetuán in 1862. This French-Jewish organization through its schools and through its educators inspired with missionary zeal saved a significant number of Jewish children in North Africa and Asia from misery and prepared the new generation for modern professions and techniques.

The first schools were opened for boys, often against the opposition of the rabbis. Slowly the population was won over and schools were opened for girls in the larger cities. In 1878 the first school was opened in *Tunis. *Algeria, being a French département and its Jews having been declared French citizens, had government schools for the French population, including Jews, and did not require AIU schools.

Once the advantages of a modern education were understood, the parents clamored for more AIU schools. By 1914, when the French Protectorate was established, there were 14 schools in *Morocco with an enrollment of 5,500 pupils.

In 1928 an agreement was reached with the Protectorate authorities which assigned primary education for Jewish children to the aiu. The Protectorate agreed to subsidize the schools and to provide buildings. This enabled the AIU to develop further the network of its schools in North Africa. In 1939 there were 45 schools with an enrollment of 15,800.

The basis of programs was the teaching of the French language as a channel for Western and particularly French culture. This education enabled the Jews to leave the mellahs, to enter commerce and certain professions, and to become the intermediaries between the Protectorate authorities and the Arab population. Hebrew education was given by local rabbis in the age-old tradition and with the ancient methods which had neither influence nor any relevance to the emerging new generation of aiu students.

French influence in Algeria brought about speedy assimilation, to the extent that the AIU intervened to set up talmud torahs and to ensure some Jewish education.

Jewish communities in North Africa assumed new importance after the loss of the six million Jews in the Holocaust. American Jews, through the Joint Distribution Committee, became interested in Muslim countries. The aiu, with the help of the Protectorate authorities, developed a large network of new schools. By 1960 there were about 30,000 Jewish pupils in AIU schools. Two new agencies started working in North Africa after World War ii. *OẒar ha-Torah, an Orthodox organization for Jewish education in Muslim countries, opened schools for boys, girls, yeshivot, and teacher training colleges. The Lubavitch Hasidim opened yeshivot for boys and Battei Rivkah for girls.

The creation of the Jewish state, the independence of *Tunisia in 1955, Morocco in 1956, and Algeria in 1962 completely changed the Jewish map. On the one hand greater stress was laid on Hebrew and Jewish subjects. The aiu opened the Ecole Normale Hébraïque in Casablanca to train Hebrew teachers for its schools. On the other hand there was the rise in Muslim countries of anti-Jewish sentiment as a result of the wars in Israel. The independence of these countries and political events in the Middle East reduced through emigration the number of Jews in Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco to about 50,000 by 1969. By the mid-1990s only Morocco had a substantial Jewish population of around 5,500, with only the aiu, OẒar ha-Torah, Lubavitch, and ORT schools still in operation.


A. Chouraqui, Between East and West (1968), 204–215.

[Stanley Abramovitch]


*Iran, unlike Jewish communities in other Muslim countries, did not preserve through the centuries a high standard of Jewish learning. The arrival of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (aiu) in 1898 was, therefore, very important for the preservation of the Jewish community. AIU schools opened the doors of the "mahaléh," the Jewish quarter in *Teheran, for the Jews. In many towns the schools served as a safeguard against the inroads of Christian and Bahai missionaries. The French language provided wider commercial possibilities for Jews in a developing country.

The revolution of *Reza Shah in 1925 and his reforms weakened the influence of Muslim priests and introduced state schools for the entire population including Jews. AIU schools were opened in the larger cities. By 1939 there were 17 schools with an enrollment of 6,000. The schools provided a basic Iranian education with French as first foreign language. Hebrew was taught by local teachers and was generally on a low level. The flow of refugees through Iran during World War ii drew the attention of American Jewry to Iran. The Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) opened an office in Teheran and Ozar ha-Torah (OH) sent a representative. New schools were opened in Teheran, *Shiraz, and provincial cities, where no AIU schools existed. OH assumed responsibility for Jewish education in all AIU and OH schools. Teachers were trained in Iran and in Israel, and Israeli teachers were brought to Iran. Hebrew textbooks, suitable for Muslim countries, were printed. A first attempt was made to produce a Jewish history book in Persian for school children.

In 1969 there were 11,000 pupils in aiu, OH, and communal schools. On the basis of statistics available, it can be assumed that half the Jewish school population was in Jewish day schools and the other half in government and Christian schools. The AIU and OH developed secondary schools in the larger cities. There was emphasis on Hebrew language and Jewish religion. The level of Jewish education progressed in the 1960s and 1970s with the increasing wealth of the Jews in a period of general economic prosperity and was effective in containing assimilation trends in a community which had not known profound Jewish scholarship for many generations.

In 1977/78 there were in Teheran 11 OH, 7 aiu, and 6 community schools, including an ORT vocational school and a school belonging to the Iraqi Jews in the city. This picture drastically changed with the mass exodus of the Jews after the Islamic revolution in Iran. By the end of the 20th century there were reportedly three Jewish schools in Teheran, one in Shiraz, and one in Isfahan.

[Stanley Abramovitch]

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Education, Jewish